World Hockey Association: Pictorial History

By HOWARD BERGER

TORONTO (Feb. 1) – It was 40 years ago that a rogue hockey league – a pipe-dream to many – forever changed the economic climate in the sport.

The World Hockey Association was formed in mid-1971 by Florida businessman Dennis A. Murphy and his California co-hort Gary L. Davidson, slated to begin operation for the 1972-73 season. The bold enterprise positioned itself as a legitimate rival to the National Hockey League and promised to compete with the NHL for not only in-coming talent, but established, star players. Given that no-such enterprise had previously existed, owners of the 14-team NHL scoffed at the WHA bravado, dismissing it as a pie-in-the-sky notion that would never see the light of day.

Oh, how inaccurate those people turned out to be.

WHA FOUNDER GARY DAVIDSON WAS ALSO BEHIND THE FORMATION OF THE AMERICAN BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION AND THE WORLD FOOTBALL LEAGUE (ABOVE). A MORE RECENT PHOTO OF DAVIDSON (BELOW), SHOWING OFF HIS THREE PROJECTS. 

The collective smirk of NHL owners turned to an expression of bemusement and mild concern on a Sunday in February 1972, when goaltender Bernie Parent of the Toronto Maple Leafs secretly flew to Florida on a day off and announced he had signed a contract with the Miami Screaming Eagles for the following season. Bemusement and mild concern became utter shock for the NHL on June 27, 1972 when the Winnipeg Jets landed one of the top three names in the sport: Bobby Hull. The Golden Jet was presented a $2 million cheque on the corner of Portage and Main in downtown Winnipeg and the WHA had instant credibility.

For seven full seasons, the rogue circuit struggled along – its teams folding, re-locating, re-appearing for brief periods in other cities, and generally causing havoc and grief for the haughty NHL. Thanks to Hull, who has never been accorded the gratitude and respect owing to him, hockey salaries exploded in both leagues. making rich men out of marginal commodities. The $8-million-a-season player today – and every skater beneath him – should send Hull a royalties payment for leaving the Chicago Blackhawks in 1972 at 33 years of age, with several terrific seasons ahead.

Such fellow luminaries from the NHL as J.C. Tremblay, Derek Sanderson, John McKenzie, Gerry Cheevers, Ted Green, Rick Ley, Tommy Williams and Andre Lacroix soon followed, providing the WHA with identity.

Before the league survivors were absorbed by the NHL in the summer of 1979, three of the all-time greatest names in the sport suited up: Hull, Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky.

Everything about the WHA was BLUE and RED – its official colors. The league even used a blue puck in its inaugural season. As such, the blog you are reading is written in the WHA color scheme. Please enjoy this history of the rogue league via its logos, uniforms and arenas.

***JERSEY DESIGNS COURTESY THE WEBSITE WHAUNIFORMS.COM*** 

 

 

 

THIS WAS THE OFFICIAL EMBLEM OF THE WORLD HOCKEY ASSOCIATION (ABOVE) FROM ITS INCEPTION IN THE 1972-73 SEASON.

LEAGUE BECAME FAMOUS FOR USING BLUE PUCKS (ABOVE) IN ITS INAUGURAL SEASON.

  

A COMPILATION OF WHA LOGOS (ABOVE) THROUGH THE LEAGUE’S SEVEN SEASONS, ON COVER OF THE MOST COMPREHENSIVE BOOK – BY FAR – EVER PRODUCED ABOUT THE NHL RIVAL. MUCH OF THE STATISTICAL INFORMATION IN THIS BLOG WAS FOUND IN SCOTT SURGENT’S EXCELLENT PRODUCTION.

 

TEAMS THAT NEVER PLAYED... 

Miami Screaming Eagles Primary Logo

AMONG CHARTER MEMBERS OF THE WHA WAS THE MIAMI SCREAMING EAGLES, THE TEAM THAT SIGNED GOALIE BERNIE PARENT. WHEN CLUB OWNERSHIP FAILED TO POST A $100,000 PERFORMANCE BOND ON APR. 28, 1972, THE FRANCHISE WAS NO LONGER RECOGNIZED BY THE LEAGUE. IT RE-SURFACED AS THE PHILADELPHIA BLAZERS ON JUNE 3, 1972. 

THE SCREAMING EAGLES WOULD HAVE PLAYED AT THE MIAMI BEACH CONVENTION CENTER (ABOVE), AS THERE WAS NO SUITABLE ARENA IN THE CITY OF MIAMI IN 1972. CONVENTION CENTER WAS SITE OF THE SECOND MUHAMMAD ALI–SONNY LISTON FIGHT IN 1965.

A FRANCHISE WAS AWARDED TO DAYTON, OHIO ON NOV. 1, 1971, THE DAY THE WHA FORMALLY ORGANIZED. THE DAYTON AEROS ONLY LASTED FIVE-AND-A-HALF MONTHS IN NAME BEFORE RE-LOCATING TO HOUSTON ON APR. 15, 1972…

DAYTON AEROS WOULD HAVE PLAYED AT UNIVERSITY OF DAYTON ARENA (ABOVE), WHICH OPENED IN 1969. 

CALGARY   BRONCOS

ON THE DAY THE MIAMI SCREAMING EAGLES FRANCHISE WAS DROPPED BY THE WHA (APR. 28, 1972), SO WAS THE CALGARY BRONCOS… AND FOR THE SAME REASON: FAILURE TO POST A $100,000 PERFORMANCE BOND. ON JUNE 21, 1972, THE CALGARY FRANCHISE RE-ESTABLISHED ITSELF AS THE CLEVELAND CRUSADERS.

ANOTHER OF THE CHARTER TEAMS IN THE WHA WAS THE SAN FRANCISCO SHARKS. WHEN FLUID OWNERSHIP FAILED TO MATERIALIZE, THE SHARKS JERSEY AND COLORS (ABOVE) SHOWED UP WITH THE LOS ANGELES ENTRY WHILE THE SAN FRANCISCO FRANCHISE, ON FEB. 11, 1972, WAS TRANSFERED TO NEW OWNERSHIP IN QUEBEC CITY, BECOMING THE QUEBEC NORDIQUES…

Cow Palace

THE BAY AREA’S WHA TEAM WOULD HAVE PLAYED AT THE COW PALACE (ABOVE AND BELOW) IN DALY CITY, CALIF., JUST SOUTH OF DOWNTOWN SAN FRANCISCO. THE SEALS OF THE WESTERN HOCKEY LEAGUE PLAYED THERE IN THE 1960s AND THE SAN JOSE SHARKS PLAYED THEIR FIRST TWO NHL SEASONS (1991-93) AT THE COW PALACE, BEFORE MOVING INTO THE FACILITY NOW KNOWN AS H-P PAVILION.

 

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1972 – 73 SEASON

 

 

Philadelphia Blazers Logo - Hockey Stick with flame with script in a yellow box 

THE PHILADELPHIA BLAZERS LASTED ONLY ONE SEASON IN THE WHA, PLAYING AT THE TINY PHILADELPHIA CIVIC CENTER (AVERAGE ATTENDANCE 4,325). THE CLUB FINISHED THIRD IN THE EASTERN DIVISION WITH A 38-40 RECORD AND WAS SWEPT BY CLEVELAND IN THE OPENING ROUND OF THE PLAYOFFS. THE BLAZERS TOP PLAYER – ANDRE LACROIX – LED THE LEAGUE IN SCORING WITH 124 POINTS. WINGER DANNY LAWSON SCORED A LEAGUE-HIGH 61 GOALS. EX-BRUIN JOHN McKENZIE HAD 78 POINTS. COLORFUL DEREK SANDERSON LEFT THE STANLEY CUP-CHAMPION BOSTON BRUINS TO JOIN THE BLAZERS, BUT HIS BRIEF WHA TENURE WAS A DISASTER…

IMG_1012.jpg

PHILADELPHIA CIVIC CENTER (ABOVE) – ORIGINAL HOME OF THE WORLD HOCKEY ASSOCIATION BLAZERS.

 

DEREK SANDERSON BROUGHT COLOR, TOUGHNESS AND SCORING ACUMEN FROM THE NHL TO THE 1972-73 BLAZERS, BUT HE PLAYED ONLY EIGHT GAMES IN THE WHA BEFORE RETURNING, LATER THAT SEASON, TO THE BRUINS. SANDERSON TAKES PART (ABOVE) IN CEREMONIAL FACE-OFF AT BOSTON GARDEN (AGAINST EX-BRUINS TEAMMATE TED GREEN) TO BEGIN NEW ENGLAND WHALERS FIRST SEASON.

 

QUEBEC CITY MADE IT THROUGH ALL SEVEN SEASONS IN THE WHA, AND THE FRANCHISE LEGACY LIVES ON IN THE NHL WITH THE COLORADO AVALANCHE. PLAYING ITS GAMES AT LE COLISEE (AVERAGE ATTENDANCE 6,923), QUEBEC FINISHED FIFTH IN THE EASTERN DIVISION IN 1972-73 WITH A 33-40-5 RECORD AND FAILED TO MAKE THE PLAYOFFS. FORMER CANADIENS’ ALL-STAR DEFENSEMAN J.C. TREMBLAY (ABOVE) LED THE WHA WITH 75 ASSISTS AND THE NORDIQUES WITH 89 POINTS. RIGHT-WINGER ALAIN (BOOM BOOM) CARON LED THE NORDS IN GOALS WITH 36. 

FOR THEIR SECOND SEASON (1973-74), THE NORDIQUES CHANGED THEIR PRIMARY COLOR FROM LIGHT BLUE TO ROYAL BLUE (ABOVE). 

IN 1975-76, QUEBEC MODIFIED ITS UNIFORM AGAIN, ADOPTING THE BASIC DESIGN IT WOULD CARRY OVER INTO THE NHL (ABOVE). THE CLUB CHANGED ITS PANT COLOR FROM RED TO BLUE IN 1976-77… 

QUEBEC NORDIQUES PLAYED THEIR ENTIRE WHA TENURE AT THE COLISEE (ABOVE) AS DID THE CLUB DURING ITS YEARS IN THE NHL (1979-95).

 

 

Edmonton Oilers Alternate Logo

 

ANOTHER FRANCHISE THAT SOLDIERED ON THROUGH THE ENTIRETY OF THE WHA WAS THE EDMONTON-BASED CLUB, INITIALLY KNOWN AS THE ALBERTA OILERS. OF COURSE, THE EDMONTON OILERS CONTINUE THE LEGACY IN THE NHL TODAY. ALBERTA PLAYED ITS HOME GAMES IN 1972-73 AT THE 59-YEAR-OLD EDMONTON GARDENS (AVERAGE ATTENDANCE 3,828). THE OILERS FINISHED OUT OF THE PLAYOFFS WITH A 38-37-3 RECORD, FIFTH IN THE WESTERN DIVISION. THE CLUB’S LEADING SCORER HAD DEFECTED FROM THE TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS: CENTRE JIM HARRISON (ABOVE) HAD 39 GOALS AND 86 POINTS. DEFENSEMAN AL HAMILTON, LATE OF THE BUFFALO SABRES, LED THE OILERS WITH 50 ASSISTS… 

EDMONTON GARDENS (ABOVE) – ORIGINAL HOME OF THE WHA OILERS.

 

 MIDWAY THROUGH THEIR INAUGURAL SEASON, THE OILERS REPLACED THE NAME “ALBERTA” ON THE BACK OF THEIR JERSEYS WITH MORE-COMMON PLAYER NAMES. 

IN 1974-75, THE OILERS CHANGED THE PRIME COLOR OF THEIR JERSEY AND SOCKS FROM ORANGE TO ROYAL BLUE (ABOVE), A SWITCH THAT WOULD CARRY OVER WITH THE CLUB INTO THE NHL… 

IN 1974, THE OILERS MOVED INTO BRAND NEW NORTHLANDS COLISEUM (ABOVE, NOW REXALL PLACE), WHERE IT PLAYED HOME GAMES FOR THE REMAINING YEARS OF THE WHA. THE NHL OILERS CONTINUE TO PLAY THERE. 

 

 

 

 THE BEST TEAM IN THE INAUGURAL SEASON OF THE WHA – AND ITS FIRST CHAMPION, WINNER OF THE AVCO WORLD TROPHY – PLAYED ITS GAMES IN THE BOSTON GARDEN (AVERAGE ATTENDANCE 6,981) AND WAS KNOWN AS THE NEW ENGLAND WHALERS (PRIME AND SECONDARY LOGOS ABOVE). THE CLUB LATER MOVED INTO THE HARTFORD CIVIC CENTER; THEN THE SPRINGFIELD (MASS.) COLISEUM AFTER THE CIVIC CENTER COLLAPSED UNDER SNOW IN JANUARY 1978. THE FRANCHISE LIVES ON TODAY IN THE NHL AS THE CAROLINA HURRICANES. NEW ENGLAND LED THE WHA WITH A 46-30-2 RECORD, THEN DEFEATED OTTAWA, CLEVELAND AND WINNIPEG TO WIN THE LEAGUE TITLE. TOM WEBSTER, WHO HAD PLAYED IN THE NHL WITH DETROIT AND CALIFORNIA, LED THE FIRST-YEAR WHALERS IN SCORING WITH 103 POINTS. CENTRE TERRY CAFFERY, A GRADUATE OF THE JUNIOR TORONTO MARLBOROS IN THE LATE-1960s, HAD A TEAM-HIGH 61 ASSISTS EN ROUTE TO A 100-POINT SEASON… 

THE ORIGINAL NEW ENGLAND WHALERS PLAYED HOME GAMES AT BOSTON GARDEN (ABOVE) – HOME OF THE NHL BRUINS AND NBA CELTICS. 

DEFENSEMAN RICK LEY BOLTED THE TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS AND WORE THE GREEN AND WHITE UNIFORM OF THE WHALERS (ABOVE) IN 1972-73. 

IN 1973-74, THE WHALERS INCORPORATED YELLOW INTO THEIR UNIFORM AND CHANGED THE JERSEY LOGO AND DESIGN (ABOVE), AS WORN BY RICK LEY. PHOTO OF LEY IN HIS DAYS WITH THE MAPLE LEAFS (BELOW) IS FROM GAME IN 1971-72 AT CHICAGO STADIUM, WITH BOBBY HULL OF THE BLACKHAWKS AND LEAF TEAMMATE GUY TROTTIER. ALL THREE WOULD DEFECT TO THE WHA.

 

IN THE FINAL TWO YEARS OF THE WHA, THE WHALERS WORE THE ABOVE DESIGN AND WERE GRACED BY THE PRESENCE OF MR. HOCKEY HIMSELF, GORDIE HOWE...

WHALERS OWNER HOWARD BALDWIN (ABOVE) STANDS IN FRONT OF THE ORIGINAL HARTFORD CIVIC CENTER, WHICH COLLAPSED UNDER HEAVY SNOWFALL ON JAN. 18, 1978 – HOURS AFTER BEING FILLED TO CAPACITY FOR A BASKETBALL GAME (PHOTO COURTESY BOB BUSSER).

 

 

THREE IMAGES (ABOVE) SHOW AFTERMATH OF HARTFORD CIVIC CENTER ROOF COLLAPSE ON JAN. 18, 1978.

SPRINGFIELD (MASS.) CIVIC CENTER (ABOVE), WHERE NEW ENGLAND WHALERS PLAYED AFTER HARTFORD CIVIC CENTER COLLAPSE. NHL WHALERS ALSO BEGAN PLAYING HERE IN THE 1979-80 SEASON UNTIL THE NEW CIVIC CENTER WAS READY.

 

 

 

 

THE LAST FRANCHISE AWARDED BY THE WHA WENT TO THE CITY OF CLEVELAND, BUT ONLY AFTER THE CALGARY BRONCOS FAILED TO MATERIALIZE FINANCIALLY. THE CLEVELAND CRUSADERS (LOGO, UNIFORM THREE ABOVE) SURVIVED THE FIRST FOUR SEASONS OF THE WHA AND DID VERY WELL IN THE LEAGUE’S INAUGURAL YEAR – FINISHING SECOND IN THE EASTERN DIVISION WITH A 43-32-3 RECORD. CLEVELAND SWEPT PHILADELPHIA IN THE OPENING ROUND OF THE PLAYOFFS, THEN FELL VICTIM (IN FIVE GAMES) TO EVENTUAL-CHAMPION NEW ENGLAND IN THE AVCO CUP SEMIFINALS. BIGGEST NAME RECRUITED BY THE CRUSADERS WAS GERRY CHEEVERS (ABOVE), THE NO. 1 GOALIE ON THE BOSTON BRUINS STANLEY CUP TEAMS OF 1970 AND 1972. LEADING POINT-GETTER IN THE FIRST YEAR WAS CENTRE RON BUCHANAN, WITH 81. LEFT-WINGER GARY JARRETT, WHO DEFECTED FROM THE CALIFORNIA GOLDEN SEALS, LED THE CLUB WITH 40 GOALS WHILE FELLOW LEFT-SIDER GERRY PINDER HAD 37…

CRUSADERS PLAYED THEIR FIRST TWO WHA SEASONS AT THE OLD CLEVELAND ARENA (ABOVE), WHICH HAD A SEATING CAPACITY OF 9,874.

IN 1974, THE CRUSADERS MOVED INTO THE 19,861-SEAT RICHFIELD COLISEUM (ABOVE), WITH CLUB OWNER NICK MILETI, A CLEVELAND ATTORNEY.

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Cleveland Barons Logo - The state of Ohio inside a maroon 'C'

RICHFIELD COLISEUM (ABOVE) WAS LOCATED LITERALLY IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE – A VILLAGE HALFWAY BETWEEN CLEVELAND AND AKRON. ARENA BECAME HOME TO NHL’S CLEVELAND BARONS (LOGO ABOVE) IN THE 1976-77 AND 1977-78 SEASONS.

 

 

ANOTHER OF THE CHARTER WHA FRANCHISES, THE NEW YORK RAIDERS, WERE HOPING TO PLAY THEIR GAMES AT THE BRAND-NEW NASSAU COUNTY COLISEUM IN UNIONDALE, BUT WERE BEATEN TO THE PUNCH BY AN EXPANSION TEAM IN THE NHL, THE NEW YORK ISLANDERS. INSTEAD, THE RAIDERS SIGNED AN EXPENSIVE LEASE WITH MADISON SQUARE GARDEN (AVERAGE ATTENDANCE 5,868) AND SHARED THE FACILITY IN MANHATTAN WITH THE NEW YORK RANGERS. THE WHA FRANCHISE WAS A BUST, FINISHING LAST IN THE EASTERN CONFERENCE (AND OUT OF THE PLAYOFFS) WITH A 33-43-2 RECORD. ITS BEST PLAYER WAS A FORMER MAPLE LEAFS’ FARMHAND – CENTRE RON WARD – WHO DEFECTED FROM THE VANCOUVER CANUCKS. WARD LED THE RAIDERS WITH 51 GOALS, 67 ASSISTS AND 118 POINTS. ALSO ENJOYING A FINE SEASON WAS RIGHT-WINGER WAYNE RIVERS, WHO HAD 37 GOALS AND 77 POINTS. LEFT-WINGER GENE PEACOSH ALSO SCORED 37.

 

THE NEW YORK RAIDERS WORE ORANGE AND BLUE UNIFORMS; RIGHT-WINGER NORM FERGUSON (ABOVE WITH NHL OAKLAND SEALS IN 1969-70) SCORED 28 GOALS IN 1972-73…

THE WHA RAIDERS SHARED MADISON SQUARE GARDEN (ABOVE AND BELOW) WITH THE NEW YORK RANGERS… BUT NONE-TOO SPECTACULARLY.

caption

 

 

ON NOV. 21, 1971, THE WHA AWARDED A FRANCHISE TO ONTARIO, CANADA. IN EARLY-FEBRUARY OF 1972, IT ULTIMATELY SETTLED IN OTTAWA AS THE NATIONALS. THE CLUB PLAYED ITS HOME GAMES IN THE OTTAWA CIVIC CENTRE AT LANSDOWNE PARK (AVERAGE ATTENDANCE 3,226) AND MADE THE PLAYOFFS WITH A 35-39-4 RECORD, GOOD ENOUGH FOR FOURTH PLACE IN THE EASTERN DIVISION. THE NATIONALS WERE ELIMINATED IN FIVE GAMES IN THE OPENING ROUND OF THE PLAYOFFS BY EVENTUAL-CHAMPION NEW ENGLAND. OF NOTE, BOTH OF OTTAWA’S “HOME” PLAYOFF GAMES WERE HELD AT MAPLE LEAF GARDENS IN TORONTO (APR. 9 AND 12, 1973, AVERAGING 4,410 PER MATCH); THE FRANCHISE WOULD RE-LOCATE IN TORONTO THE FOLLOWING SEASON. THE NATIONALS’ LEADING SCORER, WITH 42 GOALS AND 91 POINTS, WAS CENTRE WAYNE (SWOOP) CARLETON, ANOTHER GRADUATE OF THE TORONTO MARLBOROS WHO HAD PLAYED WITH BOSTON AND CALIFORNIA IN THE NHL (CARLETON WAS ON THE ICE FOR THE BRUINS WHEN BOBBY ORR SCORED HIS FAMOUS STANLEY CUP-WINNING GOAL IN 1970 AT THE BOSTON GARDEN; HE WAS FIRST PLAYER TO MOB ORR ON THE ICE). CENTRE GAVIN KIRK WAS SECOND ON THE NATIONALS WITH 28 GOALS AND 68 POINTS.

THE NATIONALS WORE THE COLORS OF THE WHA: JERSEY (ABOVE) OF DEFENSEMAN BRIAN GIBBONS, WHO WOULD MOVE WITH THE CLUB TO TORONTO…

OTTAWA NATIONALS PLAYED AT THE CIVIC CENTRE (UNDER LANSDOWNE PARK, ABOVE) DURING YEAR ONE OF THE WHA. 

IN APRIL 1973, THE NATIONALS AND NEW ENGLAND WHALERS FACED OFF IN TWO WHA PLAYOFF GAMES AT MAPLE LEAF GARDENS IN TORONTO (ABOVE).

 

 

 IN THE NHL IN THE EARLY ’70s, THE LOS ANGELES KINGS WERE FLOUNDERING. ALONG CAME THE L.A. SHARKS OF THE WHA, WHO WERE MUCH MORE COMPETITIVE, FINISHING THIRD IN THE WESTERN DIVISION WITH A 37-35-6 RECORD. HOUSTON BEAT THE SHARKS IN SIX GAMES IN THE OPENING ROUND OF THE AVCO CUP TOURNAMENT. THE CLUB PLAYED MOST OF ITS HOME GAMES AT THE LOS ANGELES SPORTS ARENA (ADJACENT TO THE GIANT L.A. COLISEUM) AND A HANDFUL OF OTHERS AT THE LONG BEACH ARENA, WHERE THE KINGS HAD PLAYED THEIR FIRST-EVER GAME IN OCTOBER 1967. THE SHARKS AVERAGED 5,982 PER MATCH. LEADING SCORER IN 1972-73 WAS LEFT-WINGER GARY VENERUZZO, WHO HAD PLAYED WITH ST. LOUIS AFTER THE NHL EXPANSION IN ’67. VENERUZZO HAD 43 GOALS AND 73 POINTS. CENTRE J.P. LeBLANC LED THE SHARKS WITH 50 ASSISTS.

THE SHARKS HAD SMART-LOOKING UNIFORMS (GARY VENERUZZO’S JERSEY ABOVE). THE CLUB’S PRIMARY COLOR WAS BURNT-ORANGE, AND THE UNIFORM WAS TRIMMED IN BLACK AND WHITE. FIRST-YEAR TEAM PHOTO IS BELOW…

 

 LOS ANGELES SHARKS PLAYED TWO WHA SEASONS AT THE L.A. SPORTS ARENA (ABOVE AND BELOW), ACROSS FROM THE GIANT L.A. COLISEUM. 

 

 

 

 

 

THE WORST TEAM IN THE INAUGURAL SEASON OF THE WHA WAS THE CHICAGO COUGARS, FINISHING LAST IN THE WESTERN DIVISION WITH A 26-50-2 RECORD. PERHAPS IT HAD SOMETHING TO DO WITH SELECTING THE SAME COLOR SCHEME AS THE WOEBEGONE CALIFORNIA GOLDEN SEALS IN THE NHL. WITH ONLY ONE PROFESSIONAL-SIZED ARENA IN THE CITY (CHICAGO STADIUM), AND WITHOUT A PRAYER THE WIRTZ FAMILY WOULD LEASE TO A WHA TEAM, THE COUGARS PLAYED IN THE TINY INTERNATIONAL AMPHITHEATRE AND AVERAGED 4,589 FANS PER GAME. CENTRE BOB SICINSKI LED THE FIRST-YEAR COUGARS WITH 88 POINTS. LEADING SCORER WAS BETTER-KNOWN ROSAIRE PAIEMENT (33 GOALS), WHO HAD SKATED WITH PHILADELPHIA AND VANCOUVER IN THE NHL. LEGENDARY TOUGH GUY REGGIE FLEMING (PICTURED BELOW WITH PHILADELPHIA FLYERS IN 1969-70) ALSO HAD A GOOD SEASON WITH 68 POINTS.

BRAMPTON, ONT. NATIVE BOB SICINSKI WAS CHICAGO’S LEADING POINT-GETTER IN 1972-73, WEARING THE GOLD AND GREEN OF THE COUGARS. SICINSKI WOULD PLAY 353 GAMES IN THE WHA…

 CHICAGO COUGARS ROAD YELLOW JERSEY (ABOVE) REMAINED CONSISTENT THROUGH THE CLUB’S WHA TENURE. THIS UNIFORM BELONGED TO FORWARD DUKE HARRIS (IN PHOTO), WHO HAD A CUP OF COFFEE WITH THE MAPLE LEAFS, PLAYING FOUR GAMES IN THE 1967-68 SEASON. 

INTERNATIONAL AMPHITHEATRE (ABOVE): 9,000-SEAT HOME OF THE CHICAGO COUGARS.

 

 

 

 WITH BOBBY HULL WEARING HIS FAMOUS NO. 9 JERSEY, WINNIPEG WAS THE MARQUEE FRANCHISE IN THE FIRST YEAR OF THE WHA, THOUGH THE JETS AVERAGED ONLY 6,102 FANS PER GAME AT WINNIPEG ARENA. THE CLUB FINISHED ATOP THE WESTERN DIVISION WITH A 43-31-4 RECORD; KNOCKED OFF MINNESOTA AND HOUSTON IN THE PLAYOFFS, THEN LOST TO NEW ENGLAND IN FIVE GAMES FOR THE AVCO WORLD TROPHY. WINNIPEG IS BACK IN THE NHL, BUT THE JETS FRANCHISE LIVES ON AS THE PHOENIX COYOTES. HULL PLAYED ONLY 63 OF THE 78 GAMES IN YEAR ONE OF THE WHA BUT STILL LED THE CLUB WITH 51 GOALS, AND TIED HIS LINE-MATE, NORM BEAUDIN, IN POINTS WITH 103. CENTERING THE HULL-BEAUDIN COMBO WAS CHRISTIAN BORDELEAU, WHO HAD 47 GOALS AND 101 POINTS.

 

BOBBY HULL (PICTURED ABOVE) WORE THIS JERSEY IN THE INAUGURAL SEASON OF THE WHA…

WINNIPEG ARENA (ABOVE) – HOME OF THE WHA AND NHL JETS (1972-96).

 

 

 

 

 MY VOTE FOR BEST LOGO-DESIGN IN THE FIRST YEAR OF THE WHA BELONGS TO THE MINNESOTA FIGHTING SAINTS (PRIMARY EMBLEM ABOVE; SECONDARY BENEATH IT). WITH THE NHL NORTH STARS IN SUBURBAN BLOOMINGTON, THE SAINTS ADOPTED ST. PAUL AS HOME BASE, PLAYING INITIALLY IN THE 8,000-SEAT ST. PAUL AUDITORIUM. RISING AT THE SAME TIME ALONG THE CITY’S RIVER-FRONT WAS THE ST. PAUL CIVIC CENTER, A 16,000-SEAT ARENA THAT OPENED ON NEW YEAR’S DAY 1973. IT BECAME FAMOUS FOR HERCULITE GLASS THAT EXTENDED ALL THE WAY TO ICE LEVEL (THERE WERE NO BOARDS, PER SE, AS IN ALL OTHER HOCKEY FACILITIES). THE CIVIC CENTER WAS DEMOLISHED IN 1998 TO MAKE ROOM FOR THE XCEL ENERGY CENTER, CURRENT HOME OF THE NHL’S MINNESOTA WILD, WHICH IS LOCATED ON THE SAME SITE. THE FIGHTING SAINTS FINISHED FOURTH IN THE WESTERN DIVISION IN 1972-73 WITH A 38-37-3 RECORD AND LOST TO WINNIPEG IN FIVE GAMES IN THE OPENING PLAYOFF ROUND. LEADING SCORER, WITH 40 GOALS AND 70 POINTS, WAS NHL VETERAN WAYNE CONNELLY, WHO HAD 35 GOALS FOR THE MINNESOTA NORTH STARS IN THEIR INAUGURAL SEASON, 1967-68. ANOTHER LONG-TIME NHLer, TED HAMPSON, LED THE FIGHTING SAINTS WITH 45 ASSISTS; HE HAD PLAYED WITH OAKLAND AFTER THE NHL EXPANDED IN ’67… 

MINNESOTA FIGHTING SAINTS BEGAN PLAYING AT THE ST. PAUL AUDITORIUM (ABOVE) IN THE FIRST YEAR OF THE WHA – THIS PHOTO OBVIOUSLY TAKEN A BIT BEFORE 1972.

ON JAN. 1, 1973, THE MINNESOTA FIGHTING SAINTS MOVED INTO THE NEW ST. PAUL CIVIC CENTER (ABOVE). IT WAS LATER DEMOLISHED TO MAKE ROOM FOR THE XCEL ENERGY CENTER (HOME OF THE NHL MINNESOTA WILD), WHICH IS LOCATED, TODAY, ON THE SAME SITE.

LEFT-WINGER GEORGE MORRISON OF THE FIGHTING SAINTS IN ACTION (ABOVE) AT THE ST. PAUL CIVIC CENTER, WITH ITS CLEAR-GLASS BOARDS IN BACKGROUND. CENTRE MIKE WALTON (BELOW) JOINED THE FIGHTING SAINTS IN YEAR TWO AFTER SOME GOOD SCORING SEASONS WITH THE LEAFS AND BRUINS IN THE NHL.

 

FOR MY MONEY, THE FIGHTING SAINTS HAD THE BEST LOGO AND UNIFORM IN THE WHA (ABOVE) – NO. 12 JERSEY (WITH SECONDARY LOGO) WORN BY CENTER MIKE ANTONOVICH, WHO WOULD PLAY 486 GAMES IN THE LEAGUE.

HARRY NEALE (PICTURED ABOVE BEHIND DETROIT RED WINGS BENCH IN 1985-86) TOOK OVER FROM GENERAL MANAGER GLEN SONMOR AS COACH OF THE INAUGURAL FIGHTING SAINTS FOR THE FINAL 19 GAMES OF THE SEASON.

 

 

THOUGH HOUSTON WOULD BECOME FAMOUS IN THE SECOND YEAR OF THE WHA, WHEN GORDIE HOWE AND HIS SONS, MARK AND MARTY, JOINED THE CLUB, THE FORMER DAYTON AEROS FRANCHISE DID WELL IN THE INAUGURAL SEASON, FINISHING SECOND IN THE WESTERN DIVISION WITH A 39-35-4 RECORD. HOUSTON BEAT LOS ANGELES IN SIX GAMES IN THE OPENING ROUND OF THE PLAYOFFS THEN WAS SWEPT BY WINNIPEG IN THE WEST FINAL. AEROS PLAYED IN THE SAM HOUSTON COLISEUM, A 9,500-SEAT FACILITY BUILT IN 1937. THE CLUB AVERAGED 4,616 FANS IN THE WHA’S FIRST SEASON. CENTER GORDON LABOSSIERE (PICTURED BELOW), WHO PLAYED FOR THE L.A. KINGS AFTER THE NHL’S 1967 EXPANSION, WAS HOUSTON’S BEST PLAYER, LEADING THE CLUB IN GOALS (36), ASSISTS (60) AND POINTS (96). LEFT WINGER TED TAYLOR (76 POINTS) AND CENTRE MURRAY HALL (70 POINTS) ALSO HAD GOOD SEASONS.

 

SAM HOUSTON COLISEUM (ABOVE) – HOME OF THE HOUSTON AEROS – HOSTED A BEATLES CONCERT (BELOW) IN 1965.

HOUSTON CHOSE DARK BLUE AND LIGHT BLUE AS ITS COLOR SCHEME IN THE WHA – THE NO. 2 JERSEY IN 1972-73 WORN BY DEFENSEMAN JOHN SCHELLA. 

THE AEROS CHANGED THEIR UNIFORM DESIGN IN 1973-74 WHEN GORDIE HOWE (JERSEY ABOVE) CAME OUT OF RETIREMENT AT 45 YEARS OF AGE TO PLAY WITH HIS SONS, MARK AND MARTY (BELOW).

 

 

1973 – 74 SEASON  

 

 HAVING MOVED ITS TWO “HOME” PLAYOFF GAMES FROM OTTAWA TO TORONTO IN APRIL 1973, THE FORMER NATIONALS FRANCHISE WAS PURCHASED BY THE LATE JOHNNY F. BASSETT AND RE-LOCATED IN THE ONTARIO CAPITAL. ACRIMONY BETWEEN THE BASSETT FAMILY AND LEAFS’ OWNER HAROLD BALLARD PRECLUDED THE TORONTO TOROS FROM USING MAPLE LEAF GARDENS AS HOME RINK. INSTEAD, THE CLUB SIGNED A ONE-YEAR LEASE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO’S VARSITY ARENA, AVERAGING NEAR-CAPACITY CROWDS OF 4,291 IN 1973-74. THE TOROS HAD A STRONG SEASON, FINISHING SECOND TO NEW ENGLAND IN THE EASTERN DIVISION WITH A 41-33-4 RECORD. HOME PLAYOFF GAMES WERE CONTESTED AT MAPLE LEAF GARDENS, WHERE AN AVERAGE OF 7,400 FANS TURNED OUT FOR SEVEN DATES – TORONTO DEFEATING CLEVELAND IN THE OPENING ROUND, THEN LOSING TO THE CHICAGO COUGARS IN A SEVEN-GAME DIVISION FINAL. FOR THE SECOND YEAR IN A ROW, WAYNE CARLETON LED THE TEAM IN ALL OFFENSIVE CATEGORIES (37-55-92), WHILE GAVIN KIRK (68 POINTS), SHOTGUN TOM SIMPSON (33 GOALS) AND TEEN-AGED WAYNE DILLON (30 GOALS) ALSO HAD VERY GOOD SEASONS…

UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO’S VARSITY ARENA (ABOVE) WAS HOME TO THE TORONTO TOROS DURING THEIR INAUGURAL WHA SEASON IN 1973-74.

BEGINNING WITH THE 1974 PLAYOFFS, THE TOROS CALLED MAPLE LEAF GARDENS (ABOVE) HOME. THE CLUB PLAYED ON CARLTON STREET IN 1974-75 AND 1975-76.

THE TOROS MAINTAINED THE OTTAWA NATIONALS COLOR SCHEME, BUT CHANGED PRIMARY SHADE FROM RED TO BLUE. TOM SIMPSON WORE THE NO. 12 JERSEY.

 

   WINNIPEG ALTERED ITS PRIMARY LOGO FOR THE WHA’S SECOND SEASON (ABOVE), AND KEPT IT THROUGH ITS YEARS IN THE NHL (1979-80 to 1995-96).

WINNIPEG ARENA WAS FAMOUS FOR PAINTED PORTRAIT OF QUEEN ELIZABETH (ABOVE) THAT HUNG AT ONE END OF THE FACILITY.

THE JETS MODIFIED THEIR UNIFORM FOR THE 1973-74 WHA SEASON, RE-DESIGNING THE JERSEY AND AFFIXING THE CLUB’S PRIMARY LOGO ON THE FRONT.

IN THE FINAL TWO SEASONS OF THE WHA (1977-78 AND 1978-79), BOBBY HULL AND THE JETS WORE THE ABOVE UNIFORM, WITH A WHITE SHOULDER-YOKE ON THE BLUE ROAD JERSEY.

 

 

 NEW YORK’S FORGETTABLE ODYSSEY IN THE WHA CONTINUED IN YEAR TWO WHEN THE RAIDERS FRANCHISE WAS PURCHASED BY BUSINESSMEN RALF BRENT AND JERRY DeLISE. THEY RE-NAMED THE CLUB THE GOLDEN BLADES AND CHANGED COLORS FROM ORANGE AND BLUE TO PURPLE AND GOLD (ABOVE). BUT FANS CONTINUED TO STAY AWAY FROM MADISON SQUARE GARDEN AND THE LEAGUE DISSOLVED THE CLUB ON NOV. 18, 1973…

NEW YORK GOLDEN BLADES PLAYED ONLY A MONTH-AND-A-HALF AT MADISON SQUARE GARDEN (ABOVE) DURING 1973-74 WHA SEASON.

THE NEW YORK GOLDEN BLADES HAD FANCY UNIFORMS (ABOVE) BUT NOBODY PAID TO SEE NORM FERGUSON AND CO. IN PERSON.

FORWARD BOBBY SHEEHAN (ABOVE) WEARING UNIFORM OF NEW YORK GOLDEN BLADES.

 

 

RATHER THAN DISSOLVING THE ENTIRE GOLDEN BLADES FRANCHISE, THE WHA PLACED A STOP-GAP TEAM IN CHERRY HILL, N.J. – ACROSS FROM PHILADELPHIA – AND RE-NAMED IT THE JERSEY KNIGHTS (LOGO ABOVE). THE CLUB PLAYED IN TINY CHERRY HILL ARENA, WHICH SOON BECAME FOLKLORE IN THE WHA. BETWEEN MADISON SQUARE GARDEN AND THE RINK IN CHERRY HILL, THE GOLDEN BLADES/KNIGHTS AVERAGED ONLY 2,585 FANS PER GAME IN 1973-74 AND FINISHED LAST IN THE EASTERN DIVISION WITH A 32-42-4 RECORD. THE CLUB CONTINUED TO FEATURE ARGUABLY THE BEST PLAYER IN THE LEAGUE (AND HISTORY OF THE WHA), ANDRE LACROIX, WHO HAD 31 GOALS AND 111 POINTS. ONE OF THE MOST PROMINENT NAMES IN NEW YORK HOCKEY HISTORY – VETERAN DEFENSEMAN HARRY HOWELL, A 20-YEAR RANGER – PLAYED 65 GAMES FOR THE GOLDEN BLADES/KNIGHTS…

 

JERSEY KNIGHTS OF THE WHA PLAYED AT TINY CHERRY HILL ARENA (ABOVE) FROM NOVEMBER TO APRIL OF THE 1973-74 SEASON BEFORE THE CLUB WAS SOLD TO INTERESTS IN SAN DIEGO, CALIF.

THE JERSEY KNIGHTS BROUGHT THE OLD NEW YORK RAIDERS UNIFORMS OUT OF STORAGE AND PLACED THE NEW CLUB LOGO ON THE ORIGINAL ORANGE AND BLUE JERSEY – STILL WORN BY FORWARD NORM FERGUSON.

 

 

IN MAY 1973, AFTER A FRUITLESS INAUGURAL SEASON IN PHILADELPHIA, OWNERS BERNARD BROWN AND JAMES COOPER SOLD THE BLAZERS TO VANCOUVER BUSINESSMAN JIM PATTISON, WHO MOVED THE CLUB TO THE WEST COAST. SADLY FOR THE FRANCHISE, STAR PLAYER ANDRE LACROIX DID NOT FOLLOW THE TEAM TO VANCOUVER, AS HIS CONTRACT HAD AN “OUT” CLAUSE IF THE CLUB MOVED NORTH OF THE BORDER. BLAZERS SHARED THE PACIFIC COLISEUM WITH THE NHL CANUCKS AND HAD THE BEST AVERAGE ATTENDANCE IN THE SECOND YEAR OF THE WHA: 9,356. THE TEAM WAS FAIRLY AWFUL, HOWEVER, FINISHING WITH THE SECOND-WORST RECORD (27-50-1) AND POINTS (55) TO THE LOS ANGELES SHARKS. WITH LACROIX GONE, CENTRE BRYAN CAMPBELL – LATE OF THE CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS AND LOS ANGELES KINGS – EMERGED AS LEADING SCORER WITH 89 POINTS, ONE POINT BETTER THAN SNIPER DANNY LAWSON, WHO AGAIN HIT THE 50-GOAL MARK…

VANCOUVER BLAZERS SHARED PACIFIC COLISEUM (ABOVE AND BELOW) WITH THE NHL’S VANCOUVER CANUCKS.

UPON THE MOVE FROM PHILADELPHIA TO VANCOUVER, THE BLAZERS MADE ONE CHANGE TO THEIR UNIFORM – REPLACING THE ORANGE PANT WORN IN YEAR ONE WITH A BLACK VERSION (ABOVE).

IN 1974-75, THE VANCOUVER BLAZERS AGAIN MODIFIED THEIR UNIFORM, PLACING THE CLUB NAME DIAGONALLY ON THE JERSEY AND ENLARGING THE LETTER FONT.

 

 

 FOR THEIR SECOND WHA SEASON, THE EDMONTON OILERS – AS THE TEAM WAS NOW CALLED – ADOPTED THE LOGO (ABOVE) IT WOULD CARRY INTO THE NHL SIX YEARS LATER. WHITE REPLACED ORANGE AS BACKGROUND COLOR. 

 

 

1974 – 75 SEASON

  

 

THE WHA EXPANDED TO THE STATE OF INDIANA ON SEP. 14, 1973 WHEN THE INDIANAPOLIS RACERS JOINED THE LEAGUE AN AS EXPANSION TEAM FOR THE 1974-75 SEASON (ALONG WITH THE PHOENIX ROADRUNNERS). THE RACERS PLAYED AT MARKET SQUARE ARENA AND AVERAGED 7,923 FANS PER GAME – A FAIRLY IMPRESSIVE NUMBER GIVEN THE MEDIOCRITY ON DISPLAY. INDIANAPOLIS FINISHED DEAD-LAST IN THE WHA IN ITS INAUGURAL SEASON WITH A RECORD OF 18-57-3. LEADING SCORER, WITH ONLY 57 POINTS, WAS CENTRE BOBBY WHITLOCK, WHO ALSO LED THE CLUB IN GOALS (31). RIGHT-WINGER MURRAY HEATLEY SCORED 15 GOALS… MURRAY’S SON, DANY, WAS JUST TRADED FROM SAN JOSE TO MINNESOTA IN THE NHL. PROMINENT FORMER NHL DEFENSEMAN BOB WOYTOWICH PLAYED 42 GAMES FOR THE RACERS, WHO WILL ALWAYS BE REMEMBERED AS WAYNE GRETZKY’S FIRST PROFESSIONAL TEAM…

WAYNE GRETZKY BEGAN IS PRO HOCKEY CAREER WITH THE INDIANAPOLIS RACERS, WHOSE HOME GAMES WERE PLAYED AT MARKET SQUARE ARENA (ABOVE).

BLUE, RED AND WHITE WAS POPULAR IN THE 1970s AND THE RACERS CHOSE IT FOR THEIR UNIFORM DESIGN (ABOVE). KEN BLOCK, WHOSE NAME IS ON THE BACK OF THE JERSEY, IS PART OF A GOOD TRIVIA QUESTION: WHO DID THE LOS ANGELES KINGS ACQUIRE FROM THE MAPLE LEAFS FOR BLOCK AT THE 1967 NHL EXPANSION DRAFT? THE ANSWER: RED KELLY, WHO RETIRED TO BECOME THE KINGS FIRST COACH.

 

 

 

FTER A PAIR OF FRUITLESS SEASONS IN THE NEW YORK AREA AS THE RAIDERS, GOLDEN BLADES AND JERSEY KNIGHTS, THIS CHARTER WHA FRANCHISE MOVED AS FAR AWAY FROM MANHATTAN AS POSSIBLE – TO SAN DIEGO, CALIF. THE SAN DIEGO MARINERS WERE THE FIRST PROFESSIONAL HOCKEY TEAM IN THE CITY SINCE THE GULLS OF THE WESTERN HOCKEY LEAGUE. THEY PLAYED AT THE FAIRLY MODERN SAN DIEGO SPORTS ARENA, ATTRACTING AN AVERAGE OF 6,080 FANS IN THEIR INAUGURAL CAMPAIGN. THE MARINERS WERE AN EXCELLENT TEAM, FINISHING WITH A 43-31-4 RECORD, FOURTH-BEST IN THE WHA IN ’74-75. THEY HAD A MEMORABLE FIRST-ROUND PLAYOFF SERIES WITH THE TORONTO TOROS: SAN DIEGO WINNING IN SIX GAMES TO ADVANCE TO THE AVCO CUP SEMIFINALS. THE GAMES IN CALIFORNIA WERE TELECAST BACK TO TORONTO ON GLOBAL-TV, BEGINNING AT 11:30 P.M. EST. ONE GAME IN SAN DIEGO FEATURED A PIER-6 BRAWL THAT FOUND SEVERAL PLAYERS SCALING THE FENCE AT THE SPORTS ARENA (THERE WAS NO GLASS PROTECTION AROUND THE RINK) TO TANGLE WITH FANS. AMONG THE BRAWLERS WAS EX-LEAFS DEFENSEMAN JIM DOREY. THE MARINERS WERE SWEPT BY EVENTUAL-CHAMPION HOUSTON IN THE SEMIFINALS. ANDRE LACROIX CONTINUED HIS ASSAULT ON THE WHA RECORD BOOK, LEADING THE MARINERS (AND THE LEAGUE) WITH 106 ASSISTS AND 147 POINTS. SEVERAL OTHER MARINERS HAD BIG SCORING YEARS, INCLUDING WAYNE RIVERS (54 GOALS); DICK SENTES (44); GENE PEACOSH (43) AND NORM FERGUSON (36). 

 MARINERS PLAYED AT THE 13,039-SEAT SAN DIEGO SPORTS ARENA (ABOVE AND BELOW) WHICH LATER BECAME HOME, BRIEFLY, TO THE CLIPPERS OF THE NBA.

SAN DIEGO’S UNIFORMS WERE OFF-SHOOTS OF THE NEW YORK RAIDERS AND JERSEY KNIGHTS (ABOVE): ORANGE, WITH BLUE AND WHITE TRIM. EX-BLACKHAWKS FORWARD GERRY PINDER PLAYED FOR THE MARINERS.

 

 

 

 

LONG BEFORE THE COYOTES, GLENDALE, JOBING.COM ARENA, AND JUDGE REDFIELD T. BAUM, THE GREATER PHOENIX AREA HAD A POPULAR TEAM IN THE WESTERN HOCKEY LEAGUE (1967-74) NAMED THE ROADRUNNERS. THE WHL CEASED OPERATION AFTER THE 1973-74 SEASON, ALLOWING THE EXPANSION TEAM IN THE WHA TO CARRY ON THE ROADRUNNERS NAME THE FOLLOWING YEAR. THE FIRST-YEAR CLUB FINISHED WITH AN IMPRESSIVE MARK OF 39-31-8, GOOD ENOUGH FOR ONLY FOURTH IN THE TOUGH WESTERN DIVISION (BEHIND HOUSTON, SAN DIEGO AND MINNESOTA). IT PLAYED HOME GAMES AT THE VETERANS MEMORIAL COLISEUM NORTH-WEST OF DOWNTOWN, AVERAGING 7,443 FANS. PHOENIX LOST TO THE QUEBEC NORDIQUES IN FIVE GAMES IN THE OPENING ROUND OF THE PLAYOFFS. THE ROADRUNNERS COULD SCORE GOALS, WITH FIVE PLAYERS TOTALLING 29 OR MORE: MICHEL CORMIER (36); JOHN GRAY AND MURRAY KEOGAN (35 EACH); DENNIS SOBCHUK (32); ROBBIE FTOREK (31) AND DON BORGESON (29). THE CLUB HAD SMART-LOOKING LOGO AND UNIFORMS (ABOVE) WITH A BLUE, GOLD AND WHITE COLOR SCHEME…

PHOENIX ROADRUNNERS OF THE WHA PLAYED HOME GAMES AT THE VETERANS MEMORIAL COLISEUM (ABOVE AND BELOW), WHICH STILL STANDS JUST NORTHWEST OF DOWNTOWN PHOENIX. NBA’s PHOENIX SUNS PLAYED AT THE COLISEUM BEFORE MOVING DOWNTOWN TO THE USAirways ARENA.

 

IN 1976-77, THE ROADRUNNERS MODIFIED THE LOOK OF THEIR UNIFORMS (ABOVE) – THE WHITE HOME JERSEY IDENTICAL IN APPEARANCE (OTHER THAN LOGO) TO THE NHL’S ST. LOUIS BLUES. JERRY ROLLINS WORE THE NO. 6 JERSEY (BELOW).

 

 

 

 WHAT A JOURNEY IT WAS IN 1974-75 FOR THE WHA’S CHARTER FRANCHISE FROM LOS ANGELES. THE SHARKS HAD A GOOD FIRST SEASON, BUT FALTERED BADLY IN YEAR 2, WITH A 25-53-0 RECORD. THAT MEDIOCRITY COINCIDED WITH THE NHL KINGS BECOMING COMPETITIVE UNDER COACH BOB PULFORD, AND THE SHARKS BEGAN TO DRAW FLIES AT THE L.A. SPORTS ARENA. ON FEB. 5, 1974, THE CLUB WAS SOLD TO DETROIT NATIVES CHARLES NOLTON AND MIKE SHAGENA, WHO PLANNED ON MOVING IT TO THEIR HOME TOWN THE FOLLOWING SEASON. THE MICHIGAN STAGS WERE THUS BORN (UNIFORMS AND LOGO ABOVE), PLAYING HOME GAMES AT COBO HALL (BELOW), THE CIRCULAR BUILDING THAT STILL STANDS JUST EAST OF JOE LOUIS ARENA ON THE DETROIT RIVER-FRONT. SADLY FOR THE STAGS AND THE WHA, “CROWDS” OF LESS THAN 2,000 WERE COMMON AT COBO, AND POOR PLANNING BY THE SCHEDULE-MAKER KEPT THE HOUSTON AEROS OUT OF DETROIT UNTIL EARLY-FEBRUARY OF THE ’74-75 SEASON, THEREBY PREVENTING FANS FROM SEEING RED WINGS LEGEND GORDIE HOWE. BY THE TIME THE AEROS WERE ON THE SLATE, MICHIGAN NO LONGER HAD A WHA TEAM. IT FOLDED ON JAN. 18, 1975.

MICHIGAN STAGS GOALIE GERRY DESJARDINS.

 

COBO HALL IN DETROIT (ABOVE AND BELOW) – BRIEF HOME OF THE WHA MICHIGAN STAGS.

HOCKEY AT COBO HALL (ABOVE).

 

 

 

ONLY A WEEK AFTER THE MICHIGAN TEAM FOLDED, THE WHA ARRANGED FOR INTERESTS IN BALTIMORE TO OBTAIN THE TEAM FOR THE REMAINDER OF THE 1974-75 SEASON. IT WAS A DUBIOUS DECISION, GIVEN THAT BALTIMORE’S AHL CLUB – THE CLIPPERS – HAD RECENTLY CEASED OPERATION. THE WHA BLADES (LOGO, UNIFORM ABOVE) HAD A DIFFICULT TIME DRAWING FANS TO THE BALTIMORE CIVIC CENTER, WHERE THEY COMPILED A LOWLY 3-13-1 RECORD IN 17 DATES. LEFT-WINGER GARY VENERUZZO MUST HAVE WONDERED WHERE HE WENT WRONG IN LIFE, HAVING ENDURED THE LOS ANGELES/MICHIGAN/BALTIMORE EXPERIENCE. NONETHELESS, HE LED THE CLUB IN SCORING IN THE TURMOIL-FILLED ’74-75 CAMPAIGN WITH 60 POINTS. THE FRANCHISE FOLDED IN MAY 1975.

THE BLADES PLAYED HALF A SEASON AT THE BALTIMORE CIVIC CENTRE.

  

 

1975 – 76 SEASON

  

 

IN MAY 1975, OWNER JIM PATTISON RE-LOCATED THE VANCOUVER BLAZERS TO CALGARY AND RE-NAMED THE TEAM THE CALGARY COWBOYS. FOR TWO WHA SEASONS (1975-76 AND 1976-77), THE COWBOYS PLAYED AT THE STAMPEDE CORRAL, AVERAGING 4,948 FANS PER MATCH IN THEIR INAUGURAL CAMPAIGN. CALGARY FINISHED WITH A 41-35-4 RECORD IN ’75-76 – THIRD PLACE IN THE CANADIAN DIVISION – AND PULLED OFF A HUGE UPSET BY KNOCKING OFF QUEBEC IN THE OPENING ROUND OF THE PLAYOFFS. BUT, THE COWBOYS FELL TO EVENTUAL-CHAMPION WINNIPEG IN THE AVCO CUP SEMIFINALS. DANNY LAWSON WAS THE TEAM’S BEST PLAYER – AS HE HAD BEEN IN PHILADELPHIA AND VANCOUVER. HE LED THE COWBOYS WITH 44 GOALS AND 96 POINTS IN 1975-76…

 

CALGARY COWBOYS PLAYED HOME GAMES AT THE STAMPEDE CORRAL (FOUR PHOTOS ABOVE) – THE 8,945-SEAT ARENA WHERE THE NHL FLAMES PLAYED FOR THREE SEASONS BEFORE MOVING INTO THE ADJACENT SADDLEDOME (UNDER CONSTRUCTION BELOW).

 

FORMER WESTERN JUNIOR STAR RON CHIPPERFIELD WORE NO. 7 IN THE RED AND WHITE CALGARY COWBOYS UNIFORM (ABOVE AND BELOW) AND SCORED 42 GOALS IN 1975-76, TWO LESS THAN TEAM-LEADER DANNY LAWSON.

 

 

 

 CINCINNATI WAS AWARDED A WHA TEAM IN MAY 1973, BUT DID NOT HAVE A SUITABLE ARENA. AS SUCH, OWNERS BRIAN HEEKIN III AND BILL DeWITT JR. CHOSE TO WAIT UNTIL THE RIVERFRONT COLISEUM WAS READY TO OPEN FOR THE 1975-76 SEASON. THE CINCINNATI STINGERS (LOGO ABOVE) SURVIVED THE FINAL FOUR SEASONS OF THE WHA BUT WERE NOT INCLUDED IN THE NHL MERGER OF 1979. IN ITS FIRST YEAR, CINCINNATI AVERAGED A RESPECTABLE 7,741 FANS PER GAME AT THE COLISEUM BUT MISSED THE PLAYOFFS WITH A 35-44-1 RECORD – LAST IN THE EASTERN DIVISION. TOP PLAYER WAS LEFT-WINGER RICK DUDLEY, WHO DEFECTED FROM THE NHL’S BUFFALO SABRES AND LED THE STINGERS IN GOALS (42) AND POINTS (81). DUDLEY IS CURRENTLY PART OF BRIAN BURKE’S HOCKEY STAFF WITH THE TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS. CENTRE DENNIS SOBCHUK WAS SECOND ON THE STINGERS WITH 32 GOALS. FUTURE HALL-OF-FAMER MIKE GARTNER (BELOW) BEGAN HIS CAREER IN THE WHA AND PLAYED FOR CINCINNATI BEFORE EMBARKING ON HIS 700-PLUS GOAL NHL ASSAULT.

TEEN-AGED MIKE GARTNER (ABOVE) BEGAN HIS PROFESSIONAL CAREER IN CINCINNATI BEFORE EMBARKING ON HIS 700-GOAL NHL ASSAULT THAT LANDED HIM IN THE HOCKEY ALL OF FAME.

CINCINNATI STINGERS PLAYED HOME GAMES AT RIVERFRONT COLISEUM (ABOVE) – NOW U.S. BANK ARENA – WHICH ONCE STOOD ADJACENT TO RIVERFRONT STADIUM (BELOW), HOME OF THE CINCINNATI REDS AND BENGALS.

RIVERFRONT COLISEUM REMAINS PART OF CINCINNATI’S SPORTS COMPLEX, NOW ADJACENT TO GREAT AMERICAN BALLPARK (ABOVE), HOME OF THE BASEBALL REDS (WITH DEMOLISHED RIVERFRONT STADIUM TO LEFT) AND SEVERAL BLOCKS FROM PAUL BROWN STADIUM (BELOW), HOME OF THE NFL BENGALS.

 

LEADING GOAL-SCORER AND POINT-GETTER RICK DUDLEY WORE THE NO. 9 JERSEY (ABOVE) FOR THE CINCINNATI STINGERS, IN THEIR BLACK-AND-YELLOW BEE DESIGN. DUDLEY (BELOW) IS NOW AN EXECUTIVE WITH THE MAPLE LEAFS UNDER BRIAN BURKE.

 

 

 

 

DENVER FAILED ON TWO OCCASIONS AT THE TOP-MONEY LEVEL OF PROFESSIONAL HOCKEY BEFORE THE COLORADO AVALANCHE CARVED A NICHE IN THE MID-1990s. THE COLORADO ROCKIES WERE AN NHL EXPANSION TEAM IN 1976-77 AND DREW MOSTLY SPARSE AUDIENCES FOR SIX SEASONS BEFORE RELOCATING IN EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. AS THE NEW JERSEY DEVILS. THE WHA HAD A VERY BRIEF FLING IN DENVER – FOR JUST HALF OF THE 1975-76 SEASON. THE DENVER SPURS – SAME NICKNAME AS MINOR LEAGUE CLUBS IN THE OLD WESTERN AND CENTRAL HOCKEY LEAGUES (JERSEY BELOW). LOSING THEIR FIRST EIGHT HOME GAMES DID NOTHING TO HELP THE SPURS DRAW FANS TO THE NEW McNICHOLS SPORTS ARENA… AN AVERAGE OF 3,000 SHOWED UP FOR HALF-A-SEASON BEFORE OWNER IVAN MULLENIX – A ST. LOUIS BUSINESSMAN – THREW IN THE TOWEL ON JAN. 2, 1976 AND MOVED THE CLUB EVEN MORE BRIEFLY TO OTTAWA.

 

DENVER SPURS OF THE WHA PLAYED LESS THAN THREE MONTHS OF THE 1975-76 SEASON AT McNICHOLS ARENA (ABOVE), WHICH STOOD ACROSS FROM MILE HIGH STADIUM (BELOW), OLD HOME OF THE DENVER BRONCOS. ARENA WAS LATER HOME TO COLORADO ROCKIES AND AVALANCHE OF NHL.

 

 

 

 

BY FAR THE MOST MYSTERIOUS AND LEAST-REMEMBERED FRANCHISE IN WHA ANNALS WAS THE OTTAWA CIVICS (LOGO AND ILLUSTRATED JERSEYS ABOVE), WHO LASTED FOR ALL OF SEVEN GAMES BETWEEN JAN. 2 AND JAN. 15, 1976 BEFORE IVAN MULLENIX WAS FORCED TO DISSOLVE THE CLUB – UNABLE TO MAKE PAYROLL. THE CIVICS PLAYED TWO HOME GAMES AT THE OTTAWA CIVIC CENTRE (PHOTO BELOW) – JAN. 7 AGAINST NEW ENGLAND (3-2 LOSS) AND JAN. 15 (5-4 OVERTIME LOSS TO HOUSTON). THE LATTER MATCH DREW 9,500 FANS TO WATCH GORDIE HOWE AND HIS SONS PLAY FOR THE VISITING AEROS. THE CLUB FOLDED TWO DAYS LATER. BEST PLAYER ON THE SPURS/CIVICS WAS NHL VETERAN RALPH BACKSTROM, WHO SOMEHOW ENDURED THE UPHEAVAL TO REGISTER 21 GOALS AND 50 POINTS IN 41 GAMES.

A PROGRAM (ABOVE) FROM THE FIRST OF TWO HOME GAMES PLAYED BY THE OTTAWA CIVICS URGES HOCKEY FANS IN THE CANADIAN CAPITAL TO SUPPORT THEIR NEW TEAM. 

 

 

1976 – 77 SEASON

 

 

 

 

AFTER THREE YEARS IN THE LONG SHADOW OF THE MAPLE LEAFS, JOHNNY F. BASSETT DECIDED TO RE-LOCATE THE TORONTO TOROS IN A SLIGHTLY LESS-RABID HOCKEY ENVIRONMENT: BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA. THE BIRMINGHAM BULLS (LOGO ABOVE) WOULD ULTIMATELY MAKE NEWS BY SIGNING PLAYERS THAT WERE NOT YET OF AGE FOR THE NHL DRAFT (RICK VAIVE, PHOTO, JERSEY ABOVE, ROB RAMAGE, MIKE GARTNER), THEREBY EARNING THE NICKNAME “BABY BULLS”. INITIALLY, THEY PRETTY MUCH STUNK IT OUT IN THE WHA, WITH A 31-46-4 RECORD IN 1976-77 – THIRD-WORST IN THE LEAGUE. FAN SUPPORT WAS RATHER IMPRESSIVE, GIVEN THE CLUB’S RECORD AND THE SCANT HOCKEY NARRATIVE IN THE DEEP SOUTH: AN AVERAGE OF 8,468 SPECTATORS WATCHED THE BULLS IN THEIR INAUGURAL SEASON AT THE JEFFERSON COUNTY COLISEUM. THAT FIGURE WAS ONLY TWO THOUSAND BELOW THE AVERAGE CROWD THE TOROS ATTRACTED IN THEIR FIRST SEASON AT MAPLE LEAF GARDENS (10,436). THE BULLS WERE LED BY RIGHT-WINGER MARK NAPIER, WHO FINISHED THIRD IN THE WHA WITH 60 GOALS (ANDERS HEDBERG OF WINNIPEG HAD 70; REAL CLOUTIER OF QUEBEC 66). CZECH-BORN WINGER VACLAV NEDOMANSKY SCORED 36 GOALS FOR BIRMINGHAM. THE “BIG M” – FRANK MAHOVLICH – GOT INTO 17 GAMES WITH THE ’76-77 BULLS AND SCORED THREE TIMES. BIRMINGHAM SURVIVED THE FINAL THREE SEASONS OF THE WHA – THE OTTAWA/TORONTO/BIRMINGHAM FRANCHISE WAS ONE OF ONLY FIVE TO MAKE IT THROUGH THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF THE LEAGUE. BUT, THE BULLS WERE DISBANDED BEFORE THE 1979 NHL MERGER.

BIRMINGHAM BULLS PLAYED HOME GAMES AT THE 16,753-SEAT JEFFERSON COUNTY CIVIC CENTER COLISEUM (ABOVE).

CANADIAN HOCKEY HERO AND FORMER DETROIT AND TORONTO NHL PLAYER PAUL HENDERSON WORE NO. 19 FOR THE BIRMINGHAM BULLS, WHOSE UNIFORMS (ABOVE) WERE VIRTUALLY IDENTICAL TO THOSE WORN BY THE TORONTO TOROS. THE KEY PLAYER TRADED BY THE LEAFS TO DETROIT FOR HENDERSON IN 1968 – FRANK MAHOVLICH – BECAME A BIRMINGHAM WHA TEAMMATE (BELOW).

 

 

 

 THE SECOND – AND MUCH MORE BRIEF – COMING OF THE MINNESOTA FIGHTING SAINTS FEATURED A RED AND GOLD COLOR DESIGN (ABOVE) INSTEAD OF THE FAMILIAR BLUE AND GOLD FROM THE ORIGINAL WHA TEAM. THE OLD CLEVELAND CRUSADERS FRANCHISE LANDED BACK IN ST. PAUL AFTER A BRIEF, OFF-SEASON FLIRTATION WITH FLORIDA. BUT THE CLUB LASTED ONLY 42 GAMES INTO THE ’76-77 SEASON BEFORE A FLURY OF LEGAL ISSUES (AND SMALL CROWDS) LED TO ITS DEMISE. IN 25 HOME DATES, THE SAINTS AVERAGED ONLY 6,211 AT THE ST. PAUL CIVIC CENTER. THEIR FINAL MATCH WAS A 9-5 HOME-ICE VICTORY OVER THE INDIANAPOLIS RACERS ON JAN. 14, 1977. THE SAINTS FOLDED FOR GOOD THREE DAYS LATER. FORMER LEAFS’ CAPTAIN DAVE KEON PLAYED ALL 42 GAMES FOR THE RESURRECTED SAINTS AND LED THE CLUB WITH 38 ASSISTS AND 51 POINTS. CENTRE MIKE ANTONOVICH HAD A TEAM-HIGH 27 GOALS.

 

 

 

 

THE SURVIVORS

 

 

  WHEN THE WHA AND NHL FINALLY GOT SICK AND TIRED OF FIGHTING ONE ANOTHER, THE ESTABLISHED LEAGUE NEGOTIATED TO ABSORB FOUR MEMBERS OF ITS RIVAL FOR THE 1979-80 SEASON, THEREBY SPELLING THE END OF THE SEVEN-YEAR HOCKEY WAR. NEW ENGLAND (HARTFORD), QUEBEC, EDMONTON AND WINNIPEG MERGED INTO THE NHL AFTER PAYING A $6 MILLION EXPANSION FEE, WHILE WHA FRANCHISES IN CINCINNATI AND BIRMINGHAM WERE PROVIDED AN INDEMNITY BY THE FOUR SURVIVING TEAMS TO FOLD. WAYNE GRETZKY CAME INTO THE NHL WITH THE OILERS FRANCHISE AND PROCEEDED TO DESTROY THE RECORD BOOK.

 

 

HARTFORD WHALERS WORE GREEN, BLUE AND WHITE AND PLAYED AT THE RE-BUILT CIVIC CENTER FROM 1979 TO 1997, WHEN THE FRANCHISE WAS RE-LOCATED TO GREENSBORO, N.C. (AND ULTIMATELY RALEIGH) AS THE CAROLINA HURRICANES.

 

 

 

 QUEBEC NORDIQUES FORMED PERHAPS THE MOST INTENSE RIVALRY IN THE HISTORY OF THE NHL WITH THEIR PROVINCIAL BRETHREN IN MONTREAL. BUT, AN OUT-DATED ARENA (THE COLISEE) LED TO RE-LOCATION. THE NORDS MOVED TO DENVER AS THE COLORADO AVALANCHE AND WON THE STANLEY CUP IN THEIR INAUGURAL SEASON (1995-96).

 

 

 EDMONTON OILERS BECAME ONE OF THE GREATEST FRANCHISES IN HOCKEY HISTORY – WINNING FIVE STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONSHIPS IN A SEVEN-SEASON SPAN. LED BY WAYNE GRETZKY AND SUPPORTED BY IMMENSE SKILL IN MARK MESSIER, GLENN ANDERSON, JARI KURRI AND PAUL COFFEY, EDMONTON WON THE CUP IN 1984-85-87-88 AND 1990 (WITHOUT GRETZKY, WHO’D BEEN TRADED TO THE LOS ANGELES KINGS).

 

 

 FOREVER, IT SEEMED, IN THE SHADOW OF THE GREAT OILER TEAMS, THE WINNIPEG JETS HAD SOME VERY GOOD YEARS IN THE NHL BEFORE BEING RE-LOCATED IN PHOENIX FOR THE 1996-97 SEASON. HALL OF FAMER DALE HAWERCHUK WAS ONE OF THE MOST PRODUCTIVE CENTRE-ICEMAN IN THE LEAGUE AFTER BEING CHOSEN FIRST OVERALL IN THE 1981 NHL DRAFT. MORE THAN A DECADE-AND-A-HALF AFTER LOSING ITS TEAM TO ARIZONA, WINNIPEG IS BACK IN THE NHL FOR THE 2011-12 SEASON, AS THE FORMER ATLANTA THRASHERS.

 

 

 

SCOTT SURGENT LISTED THE ORIGIN OF NICKNAMES FOR A SELECTION OF WHA TEAMS IN HIS HISTORICAL AND STATISTICAL REFERENCE BOOK

  

EDMONTON OILERS: SHORTENED NAME OF THE JUNIOR OIL KINGS, WHO WERE ALSO OWNED BY “WILD” BILL HUNTER.

BIRMINGHAM BULLS: BY CALLING THE NEWLY RELOCATED TEAM “BULLS”, BIRMINGHAM OWNER JOHNNY F. BASSETT COULD MAINTAIN THE UNIFORM DESIGN OF HIS TORONTO-BASED TEAM, AS BULL AND TORO ARE EQUIVALENTS IN ENGLISH AND SPANISH.

CALGARY COWBOYS: OBVIOUS REFERENCE TO THE HOST-CITY OF THE ANNUAL CALGARY STAMPEDE.

CINCINNATI STINGERS: CHOSE COLORS OF A BEE, OR WASP, WHICH “STINGS”.

CLEVELAND CRUSADERS: CHOSEN IN A VOTE BY FANS.

DENVER SPURS: CARRIED OVER THE NICKNAME OF TEAMS IN THE CITY THAT PLAYED IN THE WESTERN AND CENTRAL HOCKEY LEAGUES.

HOUSTON AEROS: LOGO AND NICKNAME FOR THE DAYTON-BASED FRANCHISE WERE ALREADY CHOSEN UPON THE SWITCH TO HOUSTON AND NO CHANGES WERE MADE.

INDIANAPOLIS RACERS: NICKNAME CHOSEN TO HONOR THE FAMOUS INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY, SITE OF THE ANNUAL 500-MILE AUTO RACE.

LOS ANGELES SHARKS: NICKNAME WAS CHOSEN FOR THE TEAM ORIGINALLY TO BE BASED IN SAN FRANCISCO (WHOSE BAY IS FULL OF THE MIGHTY CREATURES). IT CARRIED OVER WITH THE CLUB TO SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA. 

MINNESOTA FIGHTING SAINTS: NAMED AFTER THE ST. PAUL SAINTS OF THE INTERNATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE IN THE ’60S, THE WORD “FIGHTING” WAS ADDED TO DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN THE FRANCHISES.

NEW ENGLAND WHALERS: HONORED THOSE THAT MADE A LIVING AS WHALERS IN THE REGION AND THE FIRST THREE INITIALS OF THE NICKNAME WERE RATHER IDENTIFIABLE.

OTTAWA NATIONALS: PLAYED IN CANADA’S CAPITAL AND WERE OWNED BY DOUG MICHEL, WHO RAN A MINOR OUTFIT IN TORONTO KNOWN AS THE YOUNG NATIONALS.

PHILADELPHIA BLAZERS: SIMPLY CHOSEN AS NAME BY TEAM OWNERS BERNARD BROWN AND JAMES COOPER – FIREY BLEND OF ORANGE AND YELLOW BECAME TEAM COLORS.

PHOENIX ROADRUNNERS: AS WITH THE WHA TEAM IN DENVER, THE PHOENIX CLUB MAINTAINED NICKNAME OF ITS ONCE-POPULAR MINOR OUTFIT IN THE WESTERN HOCKEY LEAGUE (1967-74).

QUEBEC NORDIQUES: SIGNIFIED THE NORTHERNMOST CITY IN THE WHA DURING THE INAUGURAL 1972-73 SEASON.

SAN DIEGO MARINERS: CHOSEN IN HONOR OF THE CITY’S LEADING ROLE AS A SHIPPING PORT.

TORONTO TOROS: NOTHING FANCY HERE… JUST THE FIRST FOUR LETTERS OF THE CITY’S NAME.

WINNIPEG JETS: MANY BELIEVE THE CLUB WAS NAMED TO HONOR BOBBY HULL (THE GOLDEN JET) BUT IT WAS ACTUALLY THE NICKNAME OF THE CITY’S JUNIOR TEAM IN THE WESTERN CANADIAN HOCKEY LEAGUE. 

 

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