Elmer Vasko Was Told One Day!

Letter to Elmer Vasko from John Muckler

“Moose” fined for sub-par play

Elmer "Moose" VaskoFor generations we toil in our jobs and even though some of us say we love our work there are many who do not. Often you have heard me say or write that sports become our release from our day to day burdens. Most of us will work lifetimes to make what some athletes will make in two months. We worry about number one and make sure we try and do our jobs to the best of our abilities.

In most cases we undergo annual reviews and get praise for good work habits and in some cases we also need to be reminded we could do better. This becomes the job of our supervisors and bosses. It really is not any different no matter what profession we choose. We are held responsible for our actions good and bad. It’s no different for athletes.

Letter to Elmer Vasko from John MucklerWhen it comes to our sporting heroes the boss is usually the coach or general manager. These patriarchs often use the media to get their points across because in some cases it is all some athletes understand. Once it’s out and public the microphones are generally in the players face for his or her reaction. Most will say little and the good ones agree that the public tongue lashing is warranted and they must be better. This has gone on for years.

Recently, I stumbled upon a very neat piece of memorabilia from the game of hockey circa 1969 while visiting the Classic Auctions website. It is the type of thing that can be considered a part of the working world that puts us all on equal footing regardless the salaries. It also puts an exclamation mark on the reality that sports is a business with real life pressures that we seldom consider due to the money our heroes make. It is the type of thing that when we understand these pressures it tends to make us understand that work is work, even if it’s a game.

But some might consider this an invasion of privacy. Up for auction were the contents of players’ files from the Minnesota North Stars head office – actual contracts and complete files on about 40 North Stars players. One such file belonged to Elmer “Moose” Vasko. Included in the file were his contract for 1969 and a few NHL fines for game misconducts. $75.00 was the going rate in 1969. One paper from the file stands out among the rest. It is a fine from GM John Muckler: $25 for missing practice, and a warning that it will be $50 next time. As well, Muckler continues that his on ice performance (last weekend) in games against Toronto and Boston was not up to par for a man his size and for the salary he was making. As a result of bad play he would be further fined $100.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Muckler tells him why he is being fined, stating that Vasko should play more aggressive and be tougher. That he should be clearing the front of the net and taking players out along the boards and corners with much more effort. It just seemed to me that this letter was not unlike any kick in the pants anyone of us could get from our boss. That it was sent to an NHL player make it unique.

Thom Racine lives in Cornwall Ontario and writes a weekly column for “Seaway News”.
In October of 2007, he wrote a review of the 1968-69 Post Marbles set.

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