New Lineup of Classic Seasons
By Glenn Guzzo
Strat-O-Matic’s summer lineup of classic seasons for Pro Football, Hockey and Basketball will recapture some of those sports’ most memorable times. Here they are, in chronological order of expected delivery by SOM.
Hockey (ETA Early August)
Strat-O-Matic is nearly complete representing the 1960s and 1970s in modern hockey format with this year’s additions of the 1963-64 and 1972-73 NHL. Only 1961-62 remains to complete a run from 1959-60 through the 1979-80 NHL.
Parity, diversity of styles and historic milestones make this one of the most entertaining Original Six seasons. For the first time all playoff rounds went the full seven games, though this was the 26th year of that format.
At first glance, Chicago has got to be the team to beat. After all, Bobby Hull led the NHL with 43 goals and teammates Stan Mikita and Ken Wharram were second and third with 39 goals apiece. No other scorer in the league had more than 29. And the Blackhawks, with Mr. Goalie Glenn Hall, don’t have a shabby defense, yielding only two fewer goals than the stingiest team, Montreal.
But then recognize that Montreal was the regular-season champ, with 85 points, one better than Chicago. As usual, the Habs have wonderful scoring balance, with nine double-figure goal-scorers (Chicago had six). Long-time leader Jean Beliveau (28 goals, 78 points) heads the pack, with venerable Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion (21 goals) and Henri Richard (39 assists) also in charge. But young guns Bobby Rousseau (25 goals), Dave Balon (24), Gilles Tremblay (22) and tough guy John Ferguson (18) add speed, power and potency.
Nonetheless, third-place Toronto won its third straight Stanley Cup, thanks in no small part to the addition of New York Rangers star Andy Bathgate through a late-season trade. The league’s fourth-leading scorer (77 points) and leading assist man (58), Bathgate had only three goals (and 15 assists) in the regular season for Toronto, but had three goals – including two game-winners – the in the Stanley Cup finals series against Chicago.
Fourth-place Detroit, at 71 points just seven behind Toronto, had the incomparable Gordie Howe (26 goals, 47 assists), who set the career record for goals this season, when he surpassed Rocket Richard’s 544. And Detroit netminders Terry Sawchuk set the career record for shutouts, topping former Montreal goalie George Hainsworth’s 94.
Fifth-place New York and sixth-place Boston complete the six-team set available both on cards and PC.
As always, the entire 1972-73 NHL will be available for the Strat-O-Matic computer game, with the top six teams also available in card form.
Boston’s dynamic duo of center Phil Esposito (55 goals, 75 assists), who led the NHL in goals, assists and points, and Bobby Orr (29 goals, 101 points) led the defending champs, who again had the league’s No. 1 offense and had a 107-point season.
But Montreal had the better overall team, winning the regular season with 120 points and its fifth Stanley Cup in the past seven seasons. The Canadiens’ 329 goals were only one shy of Boston’s mark and its 184 goals allowed were 24 better than the next best defensive team, the New York Rangers.
Jacques Lemaire (44 goals, 95 points) centered an explosive Montreal first line with LW Frank Mahovlich (38 goals, 93 points) and RW Yvan Cournoyer (40 goals, 79 points). Behind them, young Guy Lafleur (28 goals), Marc Tardif (25) and Pete Mahovlich (21) were developing nicely. Ken Dryden led NHL goalies in wins (33) and goals-allowed average (2.36).
The rest of the six carded teams include the 107-point New York Rangers led by its Goal-A-Game line of Jean Ratelle (41 goals), Vic Hadfield (28) and Rod Gilbert (25), a nearly-as potent second line of wingers Steve Vickers and Bill Fairbarn (30 goals each) centered by Walt Tzachuk (27), defenseman Brad Park and goalies Eddie Giacomin and Gilles Villemure.
Western Division champ Chicago had 93 points, the second best goalie in Tony Esposito (32 wins, 2.51 gaa) and three 90-point scorers in Jim Pappin (41 goals), Dennis Hull (39) and Pit Martin (29).
Buffalo’s French Connection line of Gilbert Perreault (88 points) between LW Rick Martin (37 goals) and Rene Robert (40 goals) led the Sabres to 88 points.
Detroit earned 86 points with its young M&M boys – Marcel Dionne (40 goals, 90 points) and Mickey Redmond (52 goals, 92 points) doing most of the damage.
The rest of the NHL on the PC includes the expansion New York Islanders and Atlanta as well as a pair of 85-point teams in Philadelphia and Minnesota. The Flyers had two of the league’s top scorers in centermen Bobby Clarke (104 points) and Rick MacLeish (50 goals, 100 points). Minnesota’s Danny Grant led seven men who scored 21-32 goals each.
Pro Football (ETA: Early September)
We’ll see 1959 in the familiar board-game “six-pack” of teams, plus the full 12-team lineup for the computer.
And board gamers will get a bonus: A six-team card set for 1972, previously available only for the computer.
Extending a run of offerings from SOM that began with 1957, the 1959 season was loaded with historic significance.
It was the last before National Football League expansion (to Dallas, then Minnesota). It was the last before the debut of the American Football League. It was the first for legendary Green Bay Packers Coach Vince Lombardi. And it featured a rematch of the 1958 “Game of the Century” between the Baltimore Colts and New York Giants.
With Johnny Unitas throwing 32 TD passes, mostly to Raymond Berry, Lenny Moore and Jim Mutscheller, Baltimore (9-3) won the West, then the championship rematch with New York (10-2).
But it wasn’t Unitas who was the NFL’s top-rated passer. Check out Charlie Conerly, the Giants’ QB who averaged 15 yards per completion while throwing only four interceptions. With halfback Frank Gifford gaining 5.1 yards per carry, this Giants’ offense has more balance than others from the 1950s, while featuring New York’s usual stifling defense of the era. These Giants held eight foes to 14 points or fewer.
With new coach Lombardi, Green Bay (7-5) won its final four games by a combined 68 points and vastly improved over last year’s 1-10-1 record. The Packers were a year away from the championship game.
So was Philadelphia (7-5) with its exciting passes from Norm Van Brocklin to Tommy McDonald (10 TDs, plus one on punt returns).
Cleveland (7-5) and Jimmy Brown (1,329 yds, 4.6 avg, 14 TDs) ran away with the rushing title, while HB Bobby Mitchell ran for 5.7 per carry, caught 35 passes and had a punt return TD.
Chicago (8-4) won its final seven, finishing one game short of Baltimore in the West. Don’t blame FB Rick Casares (12 TDs), or the NFL’s best pass rush.
The 1972 NFL was one of the first classic seasons available for Strat-O-Matic Computer Pro Football and board gamers have been asking for it ever since.
The six-team card set representing the best of this famous season is dominated by the Miami Dolphins (14-0), the only perfect team in both the regular season and playoffs. Miami had a perfect blend of two 1,000-yard runners – FB Larry Csonka’s punishing inside game and HB Mercury Morris’ explosive outside game. It balanced that with a dangerous deep passing game sparked by No. 1-rated passer Earl Morrall and WR Paul Warfield. And the superb No-Name Defense could shut down anyone.
Miami shut down the otherwise-impressive Washington Redskins (11-3) in the Super Bowl. Many thought Washington would win that game with 1,200-yard runner Larry Brown, QB Bill Kilmer and an equally imposing defense.
But ‘72’s allure goes far beyond the two Super powers. This “six-pack” should be especially popular because every team won at least 10 games.
Pittsburgh (11-3) showcased rookie FB Franco Harris (1,055 yds, 5.6 avg, 10 TDs) and a defense that held seven opponents to 10 points or fewer. These Steelers won Pittsburgh’s first NFL title of any kind and to do it they had to be better than AFC Central foe Cleveland (10-4). Then Harris’ shoestring “Immaculate Reception” turned a likely playoff loss to Oakland (10-3-1) into a sudden victory.
The John Madden-coached Raiders had bombing QB Daryle Lamonica and 1,100-yard power runner Mark Hubbard.
The other team in this set, Dallas (10-4) had a potent running game led by 1,000-yard Calvin Hill, who also led the Cowboys in receiving.
Basketball (ETA Late October)
The 2009-10 NBA cards are due in late September, but this year’s two classic seasons are computer only as usual. They ought to be well worth the wait.
Swept twice in the finals in the 1970s, Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes’ Washington Bullets won their only championship. Defending champ Portland played even better this season than last, but faded at the end when Bill Walton broke his foot. Denver’s David Thompson scored 73 points on the final day, but lost the scoring title when San Antonio’s George Gervin scored 63 the same night. They barely averaged more than New Orleans’ Pistol Pete Maravich. Los Angeles’ Kermit Washington nearly killed Houston’s Rudy Tomjanovich in an epic one-punch fight.
The historic 1977-78 season had all this and more.
The division winners were Philadelphia (55 wins with 20-point scorers Julius Erving, George McInnis and Doug Collins), San Antonio (52 wins with Gervin’s 27 ppg and Larry Kenon’s 20 ppg), Denver (48 wins with Thompson’s 27 ppg and Dan Issel’s 20 ppg) and Portland (58 wins with Walton’s 19 ppg and 13 rpg leading seven double-figure scorers).
There’s fun elsewhere, especially in New Orleans, where Maravich averaged 27 ppg and Truck Robinson led the NBA with 15.7 rpg while scoring 22.7 himself.
American Basketball Association fans reading about 1977-78 quickly will identify Erving, McInnis, Thompson, Issel and Gervin as former ABA stars. Several of them were thrilling fans as early as 1971-72.
This was the season of the ABA’s best rookie class, the 1971-72 freshmen by name of Julius Erving, Artis Gilmore, George McGinnis and Jim McDaniels. Gilmore (24 ppg, 18 rpg) instantly became the league’s best rebounder and shot blocker and teamed with Dan Issel (30.6 ppg, 11.2 rpg) and Louis Dampier (16 ppg) to make Kentucky a 68-16 team.
Erving electrified with 27.7 ppg and was still 7 ppg lower than Virginia teammate Charlie Scott, who led the ABA – but doomed the Squires in the playoffs when he jumped the team for the NBA Phoenix Suns with 11 regular-season games to go.
Carolina’s McDaniels was among the league’s top scorers at 26.8 ppg when he, too, jumped to the NBA to join Seattle after playing 58 games for the Cougars.
In the end, stability mattered. New Jersey’s Rick Barry, a convert from the NBA, scored at will both in the regular season (31.5 ppg) and the playoffs (30.5) to lead the Nets to the championship finals, where McInnis’ Indiana Pacers becames the ABA’s first two-time champion.