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What happened 50 years ago during L.A. Kings expansion draft

Goalie Terry Sawchuk of the Los Angeles Kings moves to make a save during an NHL game against the Minnesota North Stars circa 1967 at the Met Center in Bloomington, Minn.

Goalie Terry Sawchuk of the Los Angeles Kings moves to make a save during an NHL game against the Minnesota North Stars circa 1967 at the Met Center in Bloomington, Minn.

(Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Fifty years ago, the first selection of the NHL Expansion Draft by the Los Angeles Kings was a future Hall of Fame goaltender Terry Sawchuk. The final choice, by the St. Louis Blues, was winger Max Mestinsek, who would never play a game in the NHL.

From the legendary Sawchuk to Mestinsek — and everyone else taken in between — the NHL’s Expansion Draft was a historic event, which doubled the size of the league from six to 12 teams.

Besides the Kings and Blues, the California Golden Seals, Minnesota North Stars, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins were new entries. The expansion fee was $2 million per team.

The proceedings unfolded on June 6, 1967, in a downtown hotel in Montreal. In fact, the Toronto Globe and Mail featured a diagram of the ballroom at the site of the draft, the Queen Elizabeth Hotel. The Los Angeles contingent was placed in between California and Minnesota.

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“Few treasures for newcomers at hockey’s rummage sale,” wrote the newspaper, adding, “Don’t believe these cries of anguish from established coaches and general managers.”

Executives of the six expansion clubs had their work cut out in selecting the available talent because as the established teams had done an excellent job in protecting their assets.

There was also controversy that draft day in Montreal. The expansion Kings were to be coached by Red Kelly, who had recently retired as a player from the Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto didn’t believe retirement set Kelly free without compensation, which led to a clash between the larger-than-life personalities of Kings owner Jack Kent Cooke and Maple Leafs General Manager Punch Imlach.

The matter eventually would be resolved after the expansion draft when the Kings traded defenseman Ken Block to the Maple Leafs in exchange for the rights to Kelly. The Kings had taken Block (an apt name for a defenseman) with their 17th selection in the expansion draft. Block would go on to play one NHL game in his career, for the expansion Vancouver Canucks in the 1970-71 season.

The first two players selected by the Kings on that historic day were goaltenders: Sawchuk and Wayne Rutledge, who would appear in 45 and 36 games, respectively, in their first season.

Center Gord Labossiere was the top position player selected, going to the Kings in the third round from Montreal. Labossiere would finish tied fourth in scoring for the Kings their first season. Their two leading scorers that initial season were Eddie Joyal (fifth round, from Toronto) and Bill Flett (18th round, from Toronto).

Lisa.dillman@latimes.com

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Twitter: @reallisa

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