The Vancouver Canucks will second the Washington Capitals' revised resolution on a merger with the World Hockey Association at Thursday's meeting of the National Hockey League Board of Governors in Chicago, The Washington Post has learned.
Additionally, Jacques Courtois, president of the Montreal Canadiens, said there was a good possibility the Canadiens would vote for the new proposal, which contains some alterations from the one that was defeated 10 days ago by a 12-5 vote at Key Largo, Fla.
Since Vancouver and Montreal were two of the five dissenters and only 13 affirmative votes are required for passage, it would seem that the proposal is assured of success.
The only possible obstacle is the attempt of the three other clubs that oppose the move (Toronto, Boston and Los Angeles) to deplete the dozen merger supporters by exploiting a statement by Alan Eagleson, president of the NHL Players Association, that his group would demand $12 million -- most of the WHA payment -- for its approval.
Los Angeles has voted consistently against merger because of Eagleson's threats. However, Eagleson recently said merger was "in the best interests of the game" and claimed his organization would wind up with most of the jobs.
"Montreal has always supported expansion, but we are opposed to certain clauses of the resolution that was presented in Florida," Courtois told The Washington Post by telephone from Montreal. "We are fundamentally opposed to giving up player rights for cash."
Each WHA team, if that league accepts the merger proposal, would be permitted to list some of its current players with rights held by NHL teams as priority picks and retain them by making a cash payment. Montreal, being more financially successful than most, would prefer to have its "defects" count beyond the 15 players each NHL club will be permitted to protect in the subsequent "expansion draft," the NHL being most careful to term the merger as "expansion."
The Canadiens are wholly owned by Molson's Breweries and Courtois said that Montreal's negative vote had resulted in "a tremendous amount of flak. There have been campaigns started to boycott the beer, paticularly in Winnipeg and Edmonton," two cities that would join the NHL under the merger proposal.
Courtois said that press reaction in Montreal had been "generally sympathetic to the Canadiens' position. However, there was a violent reaction in Quebec City," the third potential Canadian entry. The fourth WHA entry would be the New England team.
Vancouver's objection to the previous plan was believed to be centered around a demand for a balanced schedule among the 21 teams, so that it did not lose its usual two home games with Montreal and Toronto. Courtois said the Canadiens had no objections on the basis of either alignment of scheduling.