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Year two (an utterly miserable and final season for the team in LA) the Sharks brought in Marc Tardif, an obviously skilled and dominating presence on the ice…very quiet (he didn’t know much English)…wizard with the puck…but seemingly very non-aggressive…then one night someone crossed him the wrong way…one-punch knockout…stunning! Later that year the team fired their head coach and replaced him with Ted McCaskill (father of later major-league pitcher Kirk), a slow, lumbering, can’t-score forward, but could he ever fight (as a current Blue Jackets fan, I can’t help but think of Jody Shelley)…first night as coach, fisticuffs break out in front of the bench…first person I looked at was McCaskill and it was obvious he was ready to come over the boards when he realized he was now in a suit and not a uniform.
The next year the Sharks were gone, but the Mariners came to San Diego. I had a partial season ticket and the Mariners sent out a rather unique Christmas card to their supporters - a black-and-white poster of an empty sheet of ice littered with discarded gloves and sticks with the message "Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men." Great times and great memories, and I still have some Sharks stationery they discarded after their final game and almost all of the press guides from the first three seasons of the league.
I remember the terrible times and nights they had to play, I guess the (B) Ruins were afraid of a little competition. So much so that they railroaded The Whalers out of town. You own the rink you call the shots. If only Bob Schmertz hadn't gotten sick and was able to built the arena for his Celtics and Whalers. Oh well it was a great time if only for a short time. At least the (B) Ruins are still chokers and can't win the Cup. A neat website Thanks. WHA forever!!
The Nationals lacked the "name" players of Winnipeg (Bobby Hull), Cleveland (Gerry Cheevers) or Philly (Bernie Parent, Derek Sanderson) teams. We had Wayne "Swoop" Carleton, Brian Conacher and Guy Trottier. By the time the season was half over however, everybody was talking about their colourful rookie goalie "Chilly" Gilly Gratton - a real character who once "streaked" the Ottawa Civic Centre during a practice. Despite the lack of big-name talent, coach Billy Harris got the most out of the team and they actually finished in 4th place and made the eastern playoffs.
The WHA IS 1972 to 1979. Not the supposed re-birth. That doesn't even count. just taking on a glorious old league's name. My love of hockey began in the 1960's when my uncle worked for the New Haven Blades, where I saw my first games as a little kid. When the WHA began in 1972, I was living in Vermont. Boston was our weekend getaway. I saw the Whalers play in the `Gahden' until they departed for Hartford, then it was an easier trip down I-91 to the Civic Center. My favorite WHA game-by far the All Star Game in Hartford. Still have my Kodak Instamatic photos of Hull and Howe coming off the ice together and me there snapping a flash shot of them-nearly blinding them.
Whalers are my all time favorite WHA team, followed closely by the Nordiques. it was a long haul, but made it up to games in the Colisee with my dad both in the NHL and had the great thrill of later viewing games vs the Habs in both QC and Montreal. By far, to me anyways, the greatest rivalry in the NHL. Quebecois were rabidly divided between the Nords and the Habs. Never should the NHL have let the Nords move to Denver-same be said for the Jets leaving Winnipeg. Long live the WHA!
On a Sunday during the 73-74 season, approximately 5,000 of us elbowed our way into Madison Square Garden to see the New York Golden Blades and Chicago Cougars. Because I was in the Coast Guard, tickets were plentiful through the USO, and two friends and I were among the throng. By the time I reached my Barracks room at Governors Island late that day, the Golden Blades had declared bankruptcy but the team was reincarnated Monday, playing as the Jersey Knights in Cherry Hill. At the end of the 73-74 WHA season, the original New York Raiders landed in San Diego and played a few more seasons as the Mariners. I didn't know much about hockey, although the Cougars had Ralph Backstrom and Pat Stapleton, two former Blackhawks. I enjoyed the WHA, but my favorite team soon became (and remains) the Blue Shirts in New York.
My Dad took me to see the Jersey Knights twice while they were in Cherry Hill. The first time was against the Minnesota Fighting Saints (I remember John Garrett) and then later we saw the Cleveland Crusaders with my idol Gerry Cheevers. I remember him constantly skating around the net during stoppages. I didn’t understand at the time, having read about the ice sheet at the arena, I guess he couldn’t believe how bad the ice was. Before one of the games I got autographs from the Knights goalies – Joe Junkin & Gary Kurt. I still have a souvenir button from there. I’ve been a hockey fan/player ever since. Thanks Dad!
I grew up in Toronto in the 70's. You couldn't get Leafs tickets (and if you could who would want them?) and my Dad's company had season tickets to the Toros. I swear I was their biggest fan: at age 10 I lived and died with that team - Friday night and Sunday afternoon home games, built around Harold Ballard's schedule for the Leafs at the Gardens. A great memory was the night "Shotgun" Tom Simpson scored a hat trick at Maple Leaf Gardens for his 49th through 51st goals of the season.
They used to have this first intermission thing where 3 local junior hockey players would be introduced and skate a lap with the Toros backup goalie for the night, then they would each get a breakaway attempt and the one that scored won a Toros prize pack (the goalie always let one in: most often a 6 or 7 year old that could barely skate, who always shot last). This one night a 16 year old kid leads off, skates in and wings a wicked shot up under the crossbar that surprised the goalie (Les Binkley or Jim Shaw, I can't remember which). So now having let in the leadoff goal and with only one prize pack to give away, he stones the 12- and 6- year olds and the teenager skated off with the little kid's prize.
Come to think of it they were a horrible team when they left Toronto and the caliber of hockey wasn't all that good in retrospect but the Toros won my heart for the great game of hockey.
My father took me to the Gardens to see many Toro games. I still have a few rectangular felt Toro cheer flags in my basement storage along with programs.
When I was 8-9 years old, I was living in Manhattan and remember my father taking me to a few New York Raiders games. I wasn't a hockey fan at the time but I do remember being at one game and was fascinated with the man who sat a couple rows behind us on crutches. I remember looking several times at the guy who just politely smiled back. Later I found out the man was injured New York Ranger All-Star defenseman Brad Park who my father was very familiar with this as he was a loyal Ranger fan. As I said, I wasn't a hockey fan back then so the only part of the game I enjoyed was the hotdog and popcorn!
The best tribute to the WHA I have ever seen was after the Oiler's first Stanley Cup when Slats went on national TV in response to a Dave Hodge remark about "a few glasses being tipped tonight in an old league called the World Hockey Association". Slats told a national Hockey Night in Canada audience that the Nillson-Hedberg-Hull line was the best hockey line that he had ever seen. When one considers the lines that he has seen - including Lafleur-Lemaire-Shutt a few others (including a few pretty good ones with the Oilers and a guy named Gretzky at centre) - that's quite a compliment.
I think it is time to bring the WHA back but this time, get the guys from the AHL and ECHL that don’t have a chance with the NHL. Give them a little more than they are making and really promote it well. And leave the league only in places that actually have winter and snow.
My very first hockey game was the St Paul Fighting Saints, which a neighbor took me to for shoveling her drive for the winter. I don’t remember who they were playing, but I remember the fights, and a loose puck hitting a woman sitting next to me in the mouth…I still have the puck(I am 43 yrs old). Started my love of the game.
I remember going to the old Boston Arena (now Matthews Arena-Northeastern U.) to see the Whalers play the Alberta Oilers. I could have sworn that Jacques Plante was playing for Alberta, but, it turns out that he played when they were called Edmonton in ‘74/75. Funny what a 57 year olds’ memory can do….. I also went to the fifth and final game in 1973 when the Whalers beat the Jets 9-6 to win the Avco Cup. That was at the Boston Garden. They don’t have games like that in the Stanley Cup Finals!
I was a young kid in Indianapolis when the Racers joined the league. Nick Harbaruk moved behind our house and his family became friends with all the neighbors. He was an extremely nice guy and he used to take me to practices and my family used to go to a lot of games. I got to meet many of the players - all cool guys. All of this made quite an impression on a 10 year old kid. I got hooked big time and started playing hockey and actually ended up as a linemate of Mike Stapleton (Pat's son who went on to play for the Penguins).
I'll never forget youth hockey night against the Cleveland Crusaders and all the kids who played came to the game. There was an epic bench clearing brawl complete with the coaches and the goalies pairing off and duking it out - on youth hockey night! The kids loved it but not sure the parents were happy. When the Racers got in the playoffs I remember my dad and all the neighbors and Nick having a party - I was mad I didn't get to stay up and join them. I remember when Gretzky came to play for the Racers and I used to love watching the Howes and Bobby Hull when they came to town. I am still a huge hockey fan to this day. Never would have happened if the Racers and Nick hadn't come to town. Man what great memories.