The original plan was to have cities in major centers without teams such as San Francisco, California, Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Miami, Florida as well as in the big markets of New York City, Chicago, Illinois and Los Angeles, California where it was felt there was room for more than one team.
The new league was not considered much of a threat until Bobby Hull, arguably the NHL's top player at the time, moved to the new league. Hull had jokingly told reporters that he would only move to the WHA for a million dollars, at that time a ridiculous amount of money for a hockey player. But to everyone's surprise the Winnipeg Jets accepted the offer, and Hull accepted and moved to the WHA.
The WHA attracted other top talent; Gordie Howe, Frank Mahovlich, and Paul Henderson all moved to the WHA. Wayne Gretzky, often considered the greatest hockey player of all time, began his career in the WHA, as did many of the other players of the Edmonton Oilers dynasty of the late 1980s, such as Mark Messier.
Despite these big name talents the league suffered. The quality of play was never high and the big stars did not have the supporting players they needed. The league was also always in grave financial difficulty. Many teams folded or bounced from one city to another. The league had difficulty meeting payrolls and in 1979 the league folded.
Four teams joined the National Hockey League: the Edmonton Oilers, Hartford Whalers, Quebec Nordiques and Winnipeg Jets. Interestingly, among those four, only the Oilers are still playing in the same city. The league also had other great effects upon the NHL. To prevent the competition the NHL sped up its expansion plans and the New York Islanders and Atlanta Flames were created for this end. The WHA also ended the NHL policy of paying its players only a fraction of the league's profits and led to much higher player salaries.
The NHL did not accept the records of the WHA, however. Thus players like Gretzky, and especially Bobby Hull, have more points and games played than are indicated in NHL record books.
In 2003 it was annonced that a new WHA with Bobby Hull as commissioner was in the works. It is planned to begin operations in 2005, to coincide with the expected shutdown of the NHL due to labour problems. Cities thought of as probable locations for teams include Halifax, Winnipeg, Hamilton, and Quebec City. Hull hopes that elite players, including his son Brett Hull will decide to play in the WHA while the NHL is shut down.
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2 WHA Teams
3 External Links
AVCO World Trophy winners