“Slim and None: My Wild Ride from the WHA to the NHL and All the Way to Hollywood” by Howard Baldwin with Steve Milton
Ice hockey, professional, memoir, Whalers, Penguins, Flyers, owners
October 7, 2014
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)
Even though he was a good athlete through high school and college, Howard Baldwin never thought to have a sports career as a player – instead he wanted to own a team. He achieved that dream at the young age of 28 as one of the partners of the New England Whalers of the fledgling World Hockey Association. How he got there and what he did with the team, as well as his future endeavors are captured in this wonder memoir that is entertaining, informative and full of great memories for hockey fans.
Baldwin doesn’t spend too much time talking about his childhood or his college days. After his time in the Marines, he dives immediately into his sports career, becoming a ticket manager for the expansion Philadelphia Flyers in 1967. When Gary Davidson had an idea to create a rival hockey league in 1972, Baldwin convinced two other men to become the owners of the brand new New England Whalers franchise. The team was one of four WHA teams to join the NHL in 1979 as the Hartford Whalers – a merger (although for business reasons it was called an “expansion”) between the two leagues in which Baldwin played a key role.
How Baldwin and the Whalers got there and their years in the NHL makes for great reading. How the team and the entire WHA league was able to make deals with players, negotiate rent for arena time and yet still provide excellent hockey is covered throughout the book. It is clear that Baldwin is very passionate about the Whalers and the city of Hartford even after he sold his shares in 1989 and the subsequent move of the franchise to Raleigh in 1996.
Life after the Whalers is discussed in depth as well in the same entertaining manner – Baldwin later moved to the West Coast after marrying his second wife Karen and was instrumental in making San Jose a viable NHL market. However, that lead to a very brief tenure as an owner of the Minnesota North Stars. He went from Minnesota to Pittsburgh and was able to celebrate the Penguins’ 1992 Stanley Cup championship with them. He also went on to become a successful movie producer with his wife, the most notable of his films being the hockey movie “Mystery, Alaska.”
Hockey fans will love the stories of the WHA and some of the wisecracks Baldwin makes. One of my favorites came during the discussion of the final season of the WHA, when it finished with six teams, only four of which would join the NHL. Baldwin stated that “the NHL had its Original Six and the WHA would have its Final Six.” His relationships with people like Jack Kelley, whom he hired from Boston University to become the first Whalers coach and GM, are told with reverence. It is clear that he feels that he should do right to people who help him or work for him and it is really no surprise he became such a successful team owner.
This was one of the few memoirs that I read in one sitting because I was riveted to the book’s hockey stories and Baldwin’s writing that was easy to read. It was entertaining, insightful and a book that is highly recommended for hockey fans. People who have fond memories of the Hartford Whalers will especially love this book.
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