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But transplanting clubs was nothing out of the ordinary. More teams found themselves on the move than those who didn't, often more than once ... the league was anything but stable. But 4 of the 6 rebels left standing did manage to survive. They merged with the NHL in 1979. And although the Whalers, Jets and Les Nordiques have moved on, the Edmonton Oilers remain standing. And although they never won the Avco World Trophy, they went on to become the only merger survivor to have won the Stanley Cup.
They played exhibition games against the NHL, and against the world, and came out on top more often than not. They attempted several innovations too radical for the NHL. Long before Fox had the glowing puck for TV, the WHA was screwing with the tried and true black puck on white ice theory. And they introduced hockey to markets the NHL still hasn't attempted.
They managed to lure names such as Gordie Howe, Hull, Henderson, Lacroix, Tardif, Mahovlich, Plante, Sather, Ullman, Parent, Cheevers, Dryden and Keon - and was also the breeding ground for future stars, which included Mark Howe, Napier, Tonelli, Hedberg, Ftorek, Garrett, Liut, Brodeur, Messier ... and Gretzky.
The league's name was spoken on sportscasts for the first time in a quarter century, when the WHA announced it was coming back from the grave, resurrecting itself before the 2004 NHL lockout was a reality. Bobby Hull was leaving the fitness equipment infommercial scene. But alas, other than a few invitational games no one accepted the invite to, we were left waiting.
The WHA announced its purchase of the Super Elite Junior League for the '05-'06 season, apparently not admitting defeat, but not exactly the blockbuster move Hull and company had hoped for either. The league consisted at the time of 5 teams in Florida and one in New England, most sporting original WHA jerseys and names.
And yet, the world still waits for the return of the blue pucks and red and white referees.