Once upon a time, I wrote a shockingly effort-intensive post called Cartoon Explosion: The BoC Quest for the Cup. To this day, I believe it's the most-rec'd post I've written -- though perhaps a few of you newer readers should go rec it just to make sure. :)
And while I'm admittedly a much lazier form of blogger these days, perhaps I should turn the tables -- it is you, dear readers, who are lazy! Because while you've been sitting around and reading and judging and commenting, Sal Barry of Puck Junk was so inspired by my ancient effort that he decided to pen a prequel to that post's story.
And he didn't just write out the narrative -- he even pre-sketched some cartoons for me! Now I'll warn you -- Sal clearly expressed that he didn't want his storyboard cartoons used in the main part of this post, but I'm disobeying that request. Because (a) you'll see -- his cartoons are great, and (b) sometimes they tell his story better than my drawings. I've tossed in a few non-pre-sketched cartoons as well.
So sit back (See?! Lazy!) and enjoy a story that I previously knew very little about...
The Legend of the Seal
by Sal Barry
One day in 1967, six new heroes emerged from the abyss: the Penguin, the Flyer, the Star of the North, the Blue, the King and the Seal.
The Penguin and Flyer were allotted territories in the East. The Star of the North would hold dominion in Minnesota, to stand vigil against Canada. The Blue, being a color, would inhabit the Midwest, near the lands of the Black Hawk and the Red Wing. The King and the Seal, perhaps drawing the short straws, were bequeathed to California, a territory where water could not freeze and few understood the sport of hockey. And while everyone knows and loves the King, few are aware of the Seal's origin. Until now...
Coming into existence with little power of their own, the new heroes were weak. They fought over the table scraps cast aside by the established heroes. But the Seal was particularly pathetic when compared to the other noobs. The Blue would challenge for the Stanley Cup for three consecutive years, faltering each time, and the Flyer would eventually win it twice. The Seal would not be so lucky.
Deciding that an image change might be in order, the Seal added an adjective to his name and a cheap spray tan to his skin.
No longer was he merely just the "Seal;" now, he was the "Golden Seal." Unfortunately, he was still a seal, and thus still susceptible to being clubbed by those who were bigger and stronger. The Canadian, perhaps sensing the Golden Seal's new found self-esteem, set out to play a trick on him in 1970.
He offered the Golden Seal a bag of rocks and his first pick in this year's Annual Harvest. All he wanted in return was a different bag of rocks and the Golden Seal's first pick in next year's Annual Harvest. The Annual Harvest never yielded a worthy crop to the Golden Seal--and he was not well-versed in such shrewd negotiations--so he agreed. The bag of rocks (and the Canadian's pick) did not help the Golden Seal, who finished dead last.
By this time, the Magic Guyflower was fully grown and ready for the harvest. And since the Seals finished last, their pick would be first in the 1971 Harvest.
Lo! Had the Golden Seal not traded his first pick the previous year, then he could have taken the Magic Guyflower, and changed their fortunes. But a deal was a deal, and the Canadian took the Magic Guyflower with the Golden Seal's pick, building a dynasty with him while the Golden Seal would continue to flounder.
Part of the problem was that the Golden Seal existed in a land where hockey was not cherished. The King, as Kings are wont to do, managed to attract enough subjects to worship him. The Golden Seal languished in obscurity. One day, he had enough. He wanted to have adoring subjects like the King, but was not born of royalty. So he decided to journey east. Donning a top hat and monocle, the Seal appointed himself the Baron of Cleveland, and in an effort to attract followers tried to project a sense of aristocracy.
But underneath the pomp and circumstance (and hat), the Baron of Cleveland was still just a seal. The change of location did not help much, and the other heroes continued to best him in combat.
Several seasons passed. It was now 1978. The Golden Se--I mean, the Baron, still did not find his fortunes in the greener pastures of Cleveland. One day, the Star of the North approached the Baron. "The others laugh at us," the Star of the North cried. Like the Baron of Cleveland, the Star of the North was a perennial loser.
"Let us work together," suggested the Star of the North. "Separately, we are weak. But combined, we can defeat anyone who stands in our way."
But the Baron (nee Seal) did not learn from his mistake in dealing with the Canadian, and was far too trusting of anyone who showed him kindness. He agreed to an alliance with the Star of the North. But the moment he turned his back--just for a second--the Star of the North showed his true colors and betrayed the Baron. He swallowed the Baron whole, draining him of all his power, and then spat his withered remains into the Pacific Ocean.
The Baron's assets, now property of the Star of the North, made the latter stronger. The Meloche Stone--a true diamond in the rough--helped the Star of the North gain respectability among the other heroes. The Star of the North would even compete for the Stanley Cup in 1981, but would lose to a fisherman from a distant island.
Meanwhile, the Baron--who was really just a Seal, after all--remained at the bottom of the ocean. He formed a chrysalis around himself and hibernated, biding his time until he would be strong enough to make a triumphant return. Until then, he would wait.
Fourteen years later, it was 1991. Hockey's popularity in California was at an all-time high. The King had acquired "The Great One"--the powerful 99 Medallion that would make its wearer nigh-invincible.
By this time, the Seal had regained enough strength to make his comeback. But to his surprise, when he broke from his cocoon, he was no longer a seal--he had evolved into a shark!
He emerged from the ocean and returned to California, but now in a much more menacing and fearsome body. No longer would he be beat down or made fun of by the others. Still angry about what the Star of the North did to him, the Seal-turned-Shark set out for revenge.
The Star of the North feared for his life. He agreed to give the Shark half of his property (not named "Mike" or "Modano") in return for clemency. The Shark, still not strong enough to go toe-to-toe with fully-powered hero, begrudgingly agreed. The two then worked together--for real, this time--and pillaged from the other heroes that summer before going their separate ways.
But the Star of the North, while stronger and able to best the Shark in combat, was a coward at heart. He knew it was only a matter of time before the Shark would become strong enough to exact true revenge for what he had done earlier. He soon fled to Texas, and changed his name to just "Star" in an effort to hide from the increasingly powerful Shark.
By then, the Shark had turned his attention to a meddlesome Octopus.
And now you know the legend of the Seal.
NOTES TO EARL SLEEK:
There are 5 major milestones in the history of the Seals franchise that I addressed in the story above
- Established in 1967 as the Oakland Seals (actually, California Seals, but they quickly changed it to Oakland Seals two months into their first season)
- Changed team name to California Golden Seals in 1970
- Traded their pick that would have gotten them Guy Lafleur in the 1971 draft
- Moved to Cleveland and became the Barons
- Merged with the Minnesota North Stars (the league contracted)
Since the Gund brothers owned the North Stars and the Barons, they were able to merge the teams and put the best players from both teams on the North Stars.
This was one of the reasons they were allowed to buy a franchise in 1991--they "lost" a franchise when they merged Minnesota and Cleveland, so they were able to gain the San Jose Sharks franchise 14 years later when they sold the North Stars. Originally, they wanted to move the North Stars to San Jose, but the NHL wanted the North Stars to stay in Minnesota. So, they allowed the Gund brothers to sell the North Stars and buy a franchise in San Jose. The Sharks were able to take a bunch of players from the North Stars (since it was technically a splitting of the franchise) and then both teams were able to draft players from the rest of the teams in the 1991 Expansion Draft. Technically speaking, the Sharks are the spiritual successor to the Seals.
Two things I wanted to fit in but could not:
- The Seals wore white skates for a few years -- only hockey team to do so. Looked silly.
- The Seals (and later Barons) had a very good player named Dennis Maruk (mah-ROOK). He was the Barons leading scorer in their last season in Cleveland. Ironically, the first thing the North Stars did was trade him away after the merger. He became an even better player for Washington.
Gilles Meloche (meh-losh) was the goalie for the Seals/Golden Seals/Barons franchise, and was truly their diamond in the rough. He would have been a superstar if he played for a better team. After the merger, he was the North Stars number one goalie for a while.
Also, drawing a sunflower with a Guy Lafleur haircut is harder than it looks. I tried making his leaves look like fleur de lies, but it made him look too menacing.
NOTE BY EARL SLEEK: Bravo, Sal; like I said, I knew very little of this history. Huh -- I always thought the Sharks started sucking in 1992. :)