What if the WHA didn't merge with the NHL but continued on?

Discussion in 'The History of Hockey' started by crobro, Aug 21, 2017.

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  1. crobro

    crobro Registered User

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    How's this for a scenario

    Gretzky and the oilers, the Birmingham bulls with all there young future NHL hall of famers,the league staying at its current manageable size.

    Would this have been a direct threat to the NHL and any type of network tv agreements in 79-80
     
  2. Theokritos

    Theokritos Moderator

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    They didn't merge with the NHL just because. The league was obviously not financially viable. So if they continued instead of merging, they would either have shut down rather sooner than later or down-sized financially to a clear-cut minor league without the monetary means to keep the best players from leaving.
     
  3. crobro

    crobro Registered User

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    They had Wayne Gretzky as a draw
     
  4. DowntownBooster

    DowntownBooster Registered User

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    During the Autumn of 1978, there was talk of the WHA expanding into Europe when merger talks with the NHL were again scuttled a few months earlier led by Toronto's Harold Ballard. The Houston Aeros had folded prior to the start of the season and the Indianapolis Racers went out of business early into the 1978-79 season. As the league was down to 6 teams, the European option was being considered as a way to keep the league going since it appeared unlikely that the 5 NHL teams (Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Boston and Los Angeles) holding up a merger with the WHA were going to change their minds any time soon. Although Bobby Hull had thought a merger with the NHL was the best option for the WHA, Gordie Howe thought the league should carry on independently on a permanent basis. It's unfortunate the merger proposal of June 1977 did not go through as it would have included both the Cincinnati Stingers and Houston Aeros as part of the deal. The 6 new teams would have become full members of the NHL but play in their own division with a separate schedule for the first year.

    :jets
     
  5. Killion

    Killion Registered User

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    Yeah, this right here. They were pretty much on life support. Technically, it wasnt actually a "merger" but an "expansion", framed that way by the NHL, the incoming purchasing "Expansion Franchises" albeit Foster Children with pasts. But no, the fundamentals, the foundations, the wealth within the league, what they were turning over in ticket sales etc, simply wasnt tenable as a top flight professional league that would rival the NHL. Theyd have morphed as some clubs actually did into minor-pro clubs, various circuits.

    Indeed, the whole raison d'etre in forming the WHA was to eventually force Amalgamation, all hype really, challenging the NHL's supremacy, promising to go Global, first in the UK, Europe & Scandinavia... possibly even Russia.... put such a scare into the NHL that rather than being turned away every time they came knocking on the NHL's door seeking an Expansion Franchise that in huffing & puffing, they'd blow their house down, be allowed in. Ed Snider of the Flyers the first to advocate for their entry in 1974. He saw what their existence was doing with runaway player costs, salaries. But the Old Guard wanted no part of it or them. Didnt really understand, cotton on to what they were really up to.
     
  6. Fenway

    Fenway RIP Fugu Sponsor

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    The money they were tossing around at the start never made any sense. ( see Derek Sanderson who played all of 8 games in the WHA )

    The WHA was the reason the Adams Family bailed from the Bruins as they didn't have the money to compete.
     
  7. Killion

    Killion Registered User

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    Yes, the WHA was founded by the same guys who had founded the ABA which eventually merged with the NBA mid 70's. The ABA's founding modeled on the AFL which merged with the NFL mid 60's. The same Lawyers employed by the WHA in forming that league, same blueprint, same cookie cutter.... setup to force an eventual merger-amalgamation.... And yes, there were casualties on both sides including sadly the Adams in Boston along with a rush to expand by the NHL who only did so in order to block WHA incursion into major markets, most notably Long Island & Atlanta. None of it really very good for the game nor for the long term sustainability of any number of franchises on either side of the equation, either league.
     
  8. Canadiens1958

    Canadiens1958 Registered User

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    Model

    Model was based on merging within 5 to 10 years, otherwise the leagues - AFL, ABA, WHA were not sustainable with a poison pill element of taking down the weaker NHL teams if the NHL did not admit.

    Cleveland was a casualty, Atlanta had moved, St.Louis, Colorado and Pittsburg were weak while Minnesota eventually moved.
     
  9. Killion

    Killion Registered User

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    Yes, so maybe if we move the timeline from 1979 to 1975/76, pretend, imagine that Ed Snider's voice & opinion was heard, all in agreement, they merge with the WHA in that year for that season. Totally hypothetical fantasyland I know... But if you do so, a completely different picture emerges. Some teams would be just outright gone or moved to virgin fields, the Toronto Toro's for example.... others getting in a lot earlier than they did otherwise like Ottawa.... then with teams like the Calgary Cowboys what then becomes of the Atlanta Flames & so on & so forth. The WHA had much more of a whip hand in dictating terms earlier yet werent able to gain leverage & use it but they were causing plenty of pain so they would have been able to have negotiated a better deal in 75 then they did in 79.... hypothetically speaking. :D
     
  10. Fenway

    Fenway RIP Fugu Sponsor

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    [​IMG][​IMG]

    The Whalers actually had excellent media coverage when they first started in Boston in 1972 but they were doomed from the start with being 4th in line for dates at Boston Garden behind the Bruins, Celtics and AHL Braves. Howard Baldwin told me once that if had a second chance he would have put the Whalers in the new arena in Providence.

    The Philadelphia Blazers never recovered from their home opener being cancelled when the zamboni cracked the ice :laugh:

    [​IMG]

    Quebec, Edmonton and Winnipeg were the success stories of the WHA - Hartford somehow survived. Houston should have been the US team to survive but NHL politics got in the way.
     
  11. Killion

    Killion Registered User

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    Now called Dunkin Donuts Center, seats about 11,000 for hockey, I cant imagine that wouldve been sufficient Fenway. And what of the famous Providence Reds? That became their home did it not after the old RI Arena was taken (and that was a grand old barn, went up in the 20's) down.... What was Howard thinking? Just muscle in
    on the goodwill created over 6 decades by the Reds' & displace them?
     
  12. Fenway

    Fenway RIP Fugu Sponsor

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    Not exactly - The Reds were leery of the move downtown after the 1972 season and with the Bruins being on TV they were struggling.

    http://www.hockeydb.com/nhl-attendance/att_graph.php?tmi=7564

    The Reds never got an attendance bump moving to the Civic Center and many of their fans from Pawtucket resisted going downtown as the RI Auditorium was on the Pawtucket-Providence border. Baldwin simply said he had a chance to buy the Reds for short money and move them from the AHL to WHA.

    I played high school hockey at the old RI Auditorium and still carry a scar when face met chicken wire :cry: I was a boarding student at Mt St Charles and our coach went on to briefly coach the Whalers.

    I was at the last ever Reds game at RI Auditorium in 1972 though nobody knew it at the time. I can say without a doubt it was the most toxic crowd experience I have ever been in. The Reds were playing the Boston Braves and a few thousand Braves fans made the 50 mile trek to Providence. The Reds sold standing room to anybody who showed up and I was told years later the Reds sold 10,000 tickets for the game in an arena that only had 5,500 seats. The Rhode Island fans did not appreciate the visitors from Boston and the game ended on a phantom goal that only the NHL referee saw. The fighting between fans continued for 2 hours on North Main Street while the Providence and Pawtucket Police just watched :laugh:

    [​IMG]

    The Reds lost their identity when they moved to the brand new Civic Center the following season and the Braves were hurt by the new WHA Whalers.

    What a hockey atmosphere it had.

    [​IMG]
     
  13. Killion

    Killion Registered User

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    ^^^^ Unreal Fenway. Like the Mods vs Rockers in the UK, Rumble in Brighton. Crazy kidz. :laugh:
     
  14. ted1971

    ted1971 History Of Hockey

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    Unless they somehow found a way to clone Gretzky, then he would only be able to play for 1 team per evening.
     
  15. DowntownBooster

    DowntownBooster Registered User

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    I sometimes wonder how different the course of hockey history would look had the Indianapolis Racers kept Gretzky and finished the 1978-79 season.

    [​IMG]

    :jets
     
  16. Jets4Life

    Jets4Life Registered User

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    I wonder how different hockey history would have been if Shankerow's partner Michael Gobuty convinced the Jets management that Gretzky was too weak and small for the NHL and would never become a star player. The Jets had first dibs on Gretz.
     
  17. Beastdog75

    Beastdog75 Registered User

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    One thing I'd like to ask is whether the NHL was really considered financially unstable as well during this period? I'm sorry I can't recall the source, but I thought I remember reading somewhere that the merger was considered mutually beneficial because the NHL was hurting financially as well as the WHA. I never knew about the NHL being in dire financial straits, can anyone elaborate? (I apologize if this is a topic for another thread, but I thought it kind of fit into the narrative of the WHA merger).
     

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