Seattle Totems

1958-68 – The Glory Years

The Seattle Americans were renamed the Totems for the 1958-59 WHL season.  The year before they had finished the regular season with a .500 record, and for the first time had won a playoff series.  Over the next 10 seasons the Totems would only finish first in the regular season once, but they would play in the finals five times, coming away with 3 WHL titles.  Guyle Fielder would lead the league in total points 6 times; Fielder and Bill MacFarland combined for 5 league MVP awards, and the Outstanding Goalkeeper Award would be presented to a Seattle netminder three times.

1958-59 – The WHL continued with the two division format, and the league consisted of nine clubs.  The Totems dominated the Coast Division in the regular season, finishing with a 40-27-3 record.  Guyle Fielder led the league in scoring for the third straight year with 24 goals, 95 assists, and 119 points – the third season in a row that he put up over 100 points.  Other league leaders included Tom McVie, who led the league in game winning goals with 9, and Frank Arnett who led the physical game with 210 penalty minutes, a league record at the time.

The First Team All-Star squad was almost entirely composed of Totems, featuring Guyle Fielder and Val Fonteyne as forwards, Gordie Sinclair on the blueline and Bev Bentley in goal.  Fielder would win his second straight Coast Division MVP award (the league awarded one MVP in each division).

Seattle’s dominance continued in the playoffs.  After sweeping Victoria three games to none, and knocking off Vancouver in the division finals four games to one, it was on to the finals against Calgary.  Calgary had dominated the Prairie Division much in the same way that Seattle owned the Coast Division.  The Totems were much too strong though, and they swept Calgary four games to none to win their first WHL championship.  When the smoke cleared, they had put up an 11-1 playoff record and had outscored their opponents by a 44-20 margin, including two shutouts.

1958-59 Seattle Totems – WHL Champions

Back Row:  Bill Davidson, Gerry Leonard, Gerry Goyer, Rudy Filion, Bill MacFarland, Les Hunt
Middle:  Dick Beilous (trainer), Dave Rimstad, Don Chiupka, Frank Arnett, Val Fonteyne, Keith Allen (coach)
Front:  Marc Boileau, Gordie Sinclair, Bev Bentley, Bill Tibbs, Tom McVie, Guyle Fielder

1959-60 – The WHL contracted to seven teams and did away with the two division format.  The Totems were strong again, finishing the regular season in second place at 38-28-4, and for the second year in a row led the league in goals scored.  How good was the offense?  It was the only year in history that the three leading scorers in the league were all from the same team – Guyle Fielder (95 points), Bill MacFarland (86) and Rudy Filion (85).  In addition, Marc Boileau and Tom McVie finished sixth and seventh in league scoring.

For the fourth year in a row Fielder led the league in assists and total points, and picked up his third straight MVP award.  Frank Arnett led the league in penalties for the second straight year with 183.  Seattle was also well represented with two First Team All-Stars (Fielder and Gordie Sinclair) and two Second Team All-Stars (MacFarland and Boileau).  Even coach/general manager Keith Allen got into the act, as he was named the Minor League Executive of the Year by The Hockey News.

Unfortunately none of this did the Totems any good come playoff time.  They were swept by Victoria, four games to none, getting outscored 14-4 in the process.

1960-61 – The Totems sank to fourth place in the eight team league, but still had a solid record at 37-28-5.  Filion, MacFarland and Fielder finished third, fourth and fifth respectively in the scoring race.  Even though he only finished fifth in scoring overall, Fielder still managed to lead the league in assists for the fifth straight year with 71.  He was also the only Totem to make the all-star team (Second Team).

In the first round of the playoffs Seattle bumped off the regular season champs from Calgary, four game to one.  From there it was on to the WHL finals against Portland.  It was a tight series, but Portland prevailed four games to two to win their first WHL title.

1961-62 – It was another transition season for the WHL.  The Victoria and Winnipeg franchises left the league and were replaced by teams in San Francisco and Los Angeles.  As a result, the WHL went back to a divisional format with a Northern Division and Southern Division of four teams each.

The Totems 36-29-5 record was only good enough for third in the Northern Division, and led them to a best of three playoff series with Calgary.  Calgary would win the series two games to none.

Rudy Filion led the team in scoring with 21 goals and 63 assists, but Bill MacFarland was the real story.  MacFarland led the league with 46 goals and was named the league MVP.  Al Millar was also honored as the league’s top goalie, and both he and MacFarland were named First Team All-Stars.

1962-63 – While Seattle’s record (35-33-2) was slightly worse than the year before, the Totems were able to move up in the standings to finish the regular season second in the Northern Division.  Guyle Fielder bounced back from a disappointing 1961-62 season to again lead the league in assists (80) and total points (102), and Bob Barlow led the league in goals with 47.   Fielder and Gordie Sinclair would be named First Team All-Stars, and were joined by Second Team All-Star Barlow.

The Totems got off to a good start in the playoffs, beating Edmonton two games to one in the first round on Bob Barlow’s overtime winner in game three.  In the Northern Division finals, Vancouver jumped out to a quick two games to none lead and was leading the series 3-2 going into game 6 in Seattle.  Game 6 was a rough affair, with Seattle coming from behind in the third period for a 4-3 win.  The game also featured a bench-clearing brawl in the third, and a second brawl started with 2 seconds remaining when Seattle netminder Al Millar skated to the Vancouver bench to go after forward Jim Baird, who had slashed him earlier in the game.  Game 7 in Vancouver was a laugher, as the Totems came away with an 8-2 win and the series.

Seattle had earned the right to face San Francisco in the WHL finals, but unfortunately the Civic Arena was booked up with other events and the entire series had to be played in San Francisco.  It was one of the truly classic series, with the Totems taking a three games to one lead before collapsing and losing the final three games.  Four of the seven games, including games 6 and 7, were decided in overtime. 

1963-64 – With the loss of Edmonton and Calgary, the WHL was once again a 6 team league.  The Totems had an off year, finishing 29-35-6.  The fifth place finish left them out of the playoffs for the first time in 8 seasons.  The only real positive was the stellar play of Guyle Fielder, who led the league in assists (85) and total points (102) for the second consecutive year.  He would also win his fifth MVP award.

Fielder was also named a First Team All-Star, and Gordie Sinclair and Bill MacFarland were named to the Second Team.

1964-65 – Seattle rebounded from the disappointment of the previous season to finish in second place with a 36-30-4 record.  Guyle Fielder (in action against Portland, right) led the league in assists (78) and points (92) for the third straight year.  The First Team All-Stars featured two Totems, Jim McLeod and Gordie Sinclair, and Fielder was named to the Second Team.  McLeod was also named the league’s outstanding goalkeeper. 

The playoffs were a disappointment, as Seattle fell to Victoria in the first round four games to three.  This would be the last season for coach Keith Allen, who would later join the front office of the Philadelphia Flyers of the NHL.

1965-66 – For the first time the WHL played an interlocking schedule with the American Hockey League (AHL).  Each team would have to make one long road trip across the country to face their counterparts in the other league.  Seattle, under new coach Bobby Kromm, did not fare well and fell back to fifth place with a 32-37-3 record.  The fifth place finish would keep them out of the playoffs for the second time in three seasons.

Guyle Fielder led the team in scoring with 94 points, but this was only good enough for fourth best in the league.  However, his 75 assists were good enough to lead the league for the fourth straight year.  He also won the Hume Cup as the league’s "Most Gentlemanly Player".  Seattle all-star selections included both Fielder and Bill MacFarland, both named to the Second Team.

1966-67 – Bill MacFarland retired from playing, and immediately took over the coaching duties from Bobby Kromm.  In his first season MacFarland led the team back to greatness, with a 39-26-7 second place regular season finish.  It wasn’t as easy as it looked, as the team had only 4 wins 17 games into the season.  Physical play and the best defense in the league were the keys, as the Totems pounded the opposition – and even their owners.

In a February 24 match-up in San Francisco, Noel Picard knocked out Seals owner Barry van Gerbig after the second period.  Picard was in a shoving match with Seals goalie Jack McCartan by the dressing rooms, when van Gerbig pushed Picard.  Noel responded with a right to the face of the owner.  Said Picard after the game, "He was coming at me, so I hit him".

During the final game of the regular season against Portland, a bench clearing brawl broke out which resulted in $1,200 in fines being imposed by the league.  It took referees 13 minutes to restore order, and amazingly only two players received penalties.

Guyle Fielder (who else?) again led the way, leading the league in assists for the fifth straight season with 71, and total points with 91.  He also won his sixth (and final) MVP award, and was awarded the Hume Cup for the second straight season.  Joining Fielder on the all-star team were Bill Dineen and Howie Hughes, both Second Teamers.  Jim McLeod was named the league’s top goaltender.

MacFarland led the big bad Totems into their opening round match-up with California (San Francisco), and they came away with a four games to two series victory.  The WHL finals were an anti-climax, as the Totems swept Vancouver in four games to win their second WHL championship.

1967-68 – It was another solid year for the Totems, dubbed the "Jolly Green Giants" by the local press.  They finished second in the standings again, posting a 35-30-7 record.  Guyle Fielder led the league in assists (55) for the sixth straight season, the 12th time in the last 15 seasons that he had led in that category.  His 70 points topped the team, but were only good enough for third best in the league.  The Totems had two First Team All-Stars (Don Head and Chuck Holmes) and two Second Team All-Stars (Larry Hale and Fielder).

It wasn’t all roses, though, as the Totems often allowed their emotions to cloud their judgment.  Chuck Holmes received a misconduct for a "threatening gesture" made towards an official, Fielder was ejected from a game for making contact with a ref, Earl Heiskala got a misconduct for pushing a linesman, and even coach MacFarland was ejected from a game for throwing a towel at a ref.  It was a rough year, but it was worth it as Seattle moved into the playoffs.

Seattle faced Phoenix in the opening round, outscoring them 16-7 and sweeping them easily in four games.  In the finals against archrivals Portland, the Totems picked up a win in game one but fell behind by a score of 6-2 after two periods of play during game 2 in Seattle.  They got two goals in the first minute and a half of the third, and another about halfway through the period to cut the Buckaroos lead to 6-5.  The Totems thought they had the tying goal late in the period, but it was blown off due to a high stick.  With just over a minute to go Seattle pulled their goaltender, and scored with 19 seconds left in the game to tie it up.  In overtime it was Guyle Fielder getting the game winner in what announcer Bill Schonley called the greatest comeback in Seattle hockey history.  The Totems would go on to win the series in 5 games, finishing with an 8-1 record in the playoffs.  The team was 16-3 in the playoffs over the past two seasons. 

No one could have guessed that it would be the last time that the Totems would win a playoff series.

  1968-75 – The Decline and Fall of the Totems


Jim McLeod Game Used Stick

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