John Ziegler, Jr.

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John A. Ziegler, Jr.
Born (1934-02-09) February 9, 1934 (age 80)
Grosse Pointe, Michigan, U.S.
Nationality American
Alma mater University of Michigan
Occupation Lawyer, former NHL president, ice hockey owner and governor
Title President of the National Hockey League
Term 1977–1992
Predecessor Clarence Campbell
Successor Gil Stein
Awards Lester Patrick Trophy
Hockey Hall of Fame, 1987

John A. Ziegler, Jr (born February 9, 1934) was the fourth president of the National Hockey League. In 1977, Ziegler became the fourth president of the NHL, succeeding Clarence Campbell. Ziegler received the Lester Patrick Trophy in 1984 and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1987.

Early life and career

Before becoming league President, Ziegler was involved in the ownership of the Detroit Red Wings and chairman of the NHL Board of Governors. Ziegler had also been the Vice-Chairman of the England based London Lions independent professional ice hockey franchise. He is also a lawyer, having received a law degree at the University of Michigan.1

President of the National Hockey League

Prior to the 1978-79 season, a failed manipulation of the waiver system by the Montreal Canadiens led Pierre Bouchard's rights to unintentionally move from Montreal to Washington. Montreal had intended to reclaim him, but Ziegler interfered in the deal. Initially unhappy with the move, Bouchard played only one game in the 1978-79 season and considered retirement.2 However, he returned next season to the NHL with Washington where he finished his career playing four seasons.3

In August 1979, Ziegler, announced that protective helmets would become mandatory in the NHL. "The introduction of the helmet rule will be an additional safety factor," he said. The only exception to the rule are players—after signing a waiver form—who signed pro contracts prior to June 1, 1979. Essentially, this grandfather clause allowed hockey's veterans to choose whether or not they wanted to wear helmets but forced all new players to wear them.

NHL–WHA merger

Ziegler was the NHL's first American chief executive, and the American teams were far less hostile to the idea of a merger with the World Hockey Association than their Canadian counterparts. There were a number of reasons for this, but probably the most compelling was the Montreal Canadiens' dominance of the NHL during the years of the WHA's existence. The Canadiens won five of the seven Stanley Cups during this time, including four in a row from 1976 through 1979. Montreal owed this success in large part to its ability to resist WHA efforts to lure away its players, and many American teams believed they were able to do this because Canadian Hockey Night in Canada television revenues were mostly distributed among the three Canadian teams instead of across the league. Hence, adding Canadian teams would lessen the financial advantage that teams like the Canadiens had. Also, both NHL and WHA owners realized that the Canadian markets were a vital economic base, both to the WHA and any future rival league that might take its place. Absorbing the Canadian markets would therefore preclude the possibility of the NHL having to fight off another rival league.

In June 1977, Ziegler announced that the NHL had created a committee to investigate the possibility of a merger, while Bill DeWitt, Jr., owner of the WHA's Cincinnati Stingers, stated that Ziegler had invited six teams to join the league for the 1977–78 season if various conditions could be met. The proposal would have seen the six team become full members of the NHL, but play in their own division with a separate schedule for the first year.4

Led by Toronto's Harold Ballard, the owners voted down Ziegler's proposal. The Calgary Cowboys, who had hoped to be one of the six teams to join the NHL, subsequently folded, as did the Phoenix Roadrunners, Minnesota Fighting Saints, and San Diego Mariners. This reduced the junior league down to eight teams for the 1977–78 WHA season, and left its long-term future in doubt.5

Suspensions handed out by Ziegler

Following a 4–3 Boston Bruins victory over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on December 23, 1979 an on-ice fray occurred between the players from both teams. During the fray, a Rangers fan cut the face of Bruins player Stan Jonathan with a rolled-up program and grabbed his hockey stick. Boston Bruin Terry O'Reilly climbed over the Plexiglas and went into the stands in pursuit of the offender, followed by fellow Bruin Peter McNab and other teammates. Another Bruin, Mike Milbury, who had actually reached the visitors locker room when his teammates started going into the stands, raced back to join his colleagues in the brawl. He caught the unruly spectator, removed one of his shoes and, while holding the heel end, hit him hard once with the sole side. Subsequently Ziegler suspended O'Reilly for eight games and McNab and Milbury for six, with each being fined $500. This incident also resulted in the installation of higher glass panels enclosing rinks in hockey arenas.6

In December 1986, Los Angeles Kings head coach Pat Quinn signed a contract to become coach and general manager of the Vancouver Canucks with just months left on his Kings contract. Ziegler suspended Quinn for the rest of the season and barred him from taking over Vancouver's hockey operations until June. Ziegler also barred him from coaching anywhere in the NHL until the 1990–91 season. In Ziegler's view, Quinn's actions created a serious conflict of interest that could only be resolved by having him removed as coach.7

The 1988 Stanley Cup playoff series between the New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins featured the infamous confrontation between Devils coach Jim Schoenfeld and referee Don Koharski after Game 3, when, during an argument in the tunnel after the game, Koharski tripped and fell, accusing Schoenfield of pushing him. Schoenfield famously responded, "You tripped and fell you fat pig!" Then, he yelled "Have another doughnut! Have another doughnut!" The incident was played repeatedly on ESPN and has since become part of NHL lore. Schoenfeld was suspended by Ziegler for Game 4, but the Devils received an injunction from a New Jersey court, allowing Schoenfeld to coach the fourth game. In protest, the officials scheduled to work that game in the Meadlowands refused to take the ice, forcing the NHL to scramble for amateur officials to call the contest. The injunction was lifted and Schoenfeld served his suspension during Game 5 in the Boston Garden.

In 1990, Edmonton Oilers goaltender Grant Fuhr came forward about his drug use after spending two weeks in a counseling center in Florida. He admitted that he used "a substance"—he did not say cocaine—for some seven years, or most of the period that the Oilers rested at the top of the NHL. Details of Fuhr's drug use were supplied by the player's ex-wife, Corrine, who told the press in Edmonton that she often found cocaine hidden in his clothing and that she fielded numerous threatening telephone calls from drug dealers who had not been paid. These embarrassing details no doubt contributed to the one-year suspension handed down in September 1990 by Ziegler, who called Fuhr's conduct "dishonorable and against the welfare of the league." Once Fuhr was re-instated, fans of opposing teams taunted him at games with bags of sugar.8

Soviet players in the NHL

In 1987, the All-Star Game was pre-empted in favour of Rendez-vous '87, held at Le Colisée in Quebec City. Like the Challenge Cup before it, Rendez-Vous '87 was an event where the best the NHL could offer played against a Soviet squad which had an entire year to prepare. To reduce the possibility of the NHL being embarrassed again, Rendez-Vous '87 was a two-game affair. The series was split between the two teams with a game apiece. During the series, Ziegler stated that Soviet players would never be able to join the NHL because of the way the Soviet hockey programme worked, and that NHLers would never be able to play in the Winter Olympics, both of which, as events would turn out, would eventually happen.

Pavel Bure was selected 113th overall in the 6th round of the 1989 NHL Entry Draft by the Vancouver Canucks, following his rookie season with CSKA Moscow. The pick was controversial, as the Canucks had chosen him seemingly a year ahead of his eligible draft season. At the age of 18, he was available to be chosen in the first three rounds of the draft, but in order to be selected any later than that, he would had to have played in at least two seasons (with a minimum of 11 games per season) for his elite-level European club, the Central Red Army.9 However, the Canucks' head scout at the time, Mike Penny, discovered that Bure had played in additional exhibition and international games to make him an eligible late-round draft choice a year early.1011 Several other teams either had similar knowledge or had pursued Bure, but there was confusion as to the legitimacy of the extra games. The Detroit Red Wings had inquired to league vice president Gil Stein as to Bure's supposed availability prior to their fifth-round pick, but were told that he was not eligible.9 Winnipeg Jets general manager Mike Smith claimed he travelled to Moscow prior to the draft and made an offer to the Soviet Ice Hockey Federation. The deal involved a transfer fee to be paid to the Soviets over three years, after which time, Bure would join the Jets as a 21-year-old. Smith did not have any plans to draft Bure in 1989, however, as he believed Bure was ineligible.12 General manager Pat Quinn originally intended to draft Bure in the eighth round, but after receiving word that the Edmonton Oilers had similar intentions, he selected him in the sixth.9 Detroit's European scout Christer Rockstrom immediately began protesting, while several other unidentified team representatives reportedly stormed the Met Center stage in Minnesota, where the draft was being held, following the announcement of Bure's draft.13 The Hartford Whalers and Washington Capitals then filed formal complaints to the league, resulting in an investigation into the selection.9 After the pick was deemed illegal by league president Ziegler in a press release on May 17, 1990, the Canucks appealed the decision, procuring game sheets proving Bure's participation in the additional games with the help of recent Soviet acquisition Igor Larionov. It was not until the eve of the 1990 NHL Entry Draft, in which Bure would have been re-entered, that the draft choice was upheld.9

Labor relations, ouster and aftermath

Bobby Orr was involved in the 1991 lawsuit of retired NHL players against the NHL over its control of the players' pension fund.14 Eagleson was involved there too, arranging for the players to give up a seat on the trusteeship of the pension fund in 1969 to gain the acceptance of the NHLPA with the NHL owners. Orr and ex-Bruin Dave Forbes discussed the lawsuit with the sports newspaper The National. Orr: "Our money is being used to pay pensions for current players".15 The NHL's response was to file a notice of libel and slander against Orr and Forbes.15 Carl Brewer defended Orr in a letter to then-NHL president John Ziegler: "It is regrettable that the NHL and the member clubs would resort to such treatment of one of our game's icons, Bobby Orr. And isn't it interesting that baseball players who started their pension plan in 1947, as did the NHL, have assets in their plan of some US$500 million while we, as far as we can understand, have US$31.9 million."15 The pension lawsuit was finally won by the players in 1994 after two courts ruled against the NHL. The NHL had appealed the case to the Supreme Court of Canada which decided not to hear the case.16

John Ziegler was ultimately forced out of office in 1992 by the settlement which resolved the ten-day strike. Alan Eagleson was succeeded as National Hockey League Players' Association executive-director on January 1, 1992 by former player agent Bob Goodenow. He had served as deputy director of the NHLPA since 1990, and had spent his time instructing the players on the issues the union faced in its relations with the league.17 As executive-director, Goodenow was tasked with negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement, which had expired prior to the start of the 1991–92 NHL season.18 Goodenow met with Ziegler as the two attempted to negotiate an agreement on a range of issues including how free agency worked, the arbitration process, playoff bonuses and pensions.19 The issue of how to share trading card revenue was considered to be one of the greatest stumbling blocks the two sides faced.20

Gary Bettman, who replaced John Ziegler's successor, Gil Stein, quickly accomplished one of his stated goals, signing a five-year, $155 million deal with the Fox Broadcasting Company to broadcast NHL games nationally beginning in the 1994–95 season.21 The deal was significant, as a network television contract in the United States was long thought unattainable during the presidency of Ziegler.22

References

  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ "Career and move to Washington". Retrieved 2009-08-07. 
  3. ^ "Bouchard at Legends of Hockey". Retrieved 2009-08-06. 
  4. ^ "Expansion, merger, accommodation — whatever". Calgary Herald. 1977-06-25. p. 41. 
  5. ^ Gammons, Peter (1977-10-17). "Quebec just hopes it will have a league to play in". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2009-04-15. 
  6. ^ Seminara, Dave. "Over The Glass And Into Lore," The New York Times, Wednesday, December 23, 2009.
  7. ^ "SPORTS PEOPLE; 'Intolerable Position'". New York Times. 1987-10-07. Retrieved 2008-03-20. 
  8. ^ "HOCKEY; Fuhr Used Cocaine, Paper Says". The New York Times. 1990-09-01. 
  9. ^ a b c d e Banks 1999, pp. 30-37.
  10. ^ Anderson, Dave (1994-06-08). "Richter's Career Save on Bure". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-06-21. 
  11. ^ "Top ten draft-day steals". Vancouver Canucks. Retrieved 2008-07-12. 
  12. ^ Banks 1999, p. 34.
  13. ^ Banks 1999, p. 30.
  14. ^ Foster 2006, p. 171.
  15. ^ a b c Foster 2006, p. 172.
  16. ^ Foster 2006, p. 195.
  17. ^ Murphy, Austin (1992-03-22). "A striking change". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2009-03-11. 
  18. ^ Lapointe, Joe (1992-01-04). "What's up inside the rinks and with outside issues". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-03-11. 
  19. ^ Lapointe, Joe (1992-02-25). "N.H.L. and Union face off". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-03-11. 
  20. ^ Duhatschek, Eric (1992-04-02). "Trading-card revenue isn't bubblegum issue". Calgary Herald. p. E1. 
  21. ^ Sandomir, Richard (1994-09-10). "Fox Outbids CBS for N.H.L. Games". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-20. 
  22. ^ Steve, Simmons (1994-09-30). "The Commish is not to blame". Calgary Sun. 

External links

Preceded by
Bill Wirtz
Chairman of the NHL Board of Governors
1976–1977
Succeeded by
Bill Wirtz
Preceded by
Clarence Campbell
National Hockey League President
1977–1992
Succeeded by
Gil Stein







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