The Web
Buy the Indianapolis Racers book here buy wha merchandise here
before the beginning '72 - '73 '73 - '74 '74 - '75 '75 - '76 '76 - '77 '77 - '78 '78 - '79 wha news ... such as it is ...

player photos team stats

  • Home: Birmingham, AB
  • Stadium: Birmingham-Jefferson County Civic Center (16,723)
  • Team synopsis: Originally the Ottawa Nationals, then Toronto Toros. Team kept the Toros' jerseys and played last three seasons in Birmingham. Team didn't make the NHL cut.

One of the original 12 teams when the WHA opened in 1972, the Ottawa Nationals spent one year in the nation's capital before owner John Bassett moved the team to Toronto for the '73-'74 season. But three years of lacklustre play prompted the Toros to stampede to Birmingham where they kept the logo, but were renamed the Bulls. A bigger change couldn't have been made, going from playing at the historic Maple Leaf Gardens to hockey-virgin Alabama. The deep south only had two entries in the hockey world at the time - the Houston Aeros and the NHL's Atlanta Flames. The Aeros were consistently drawing good crowds, while the NHL was floundering in dixie.

The team hadn't changed much since in Toronto, and finished their inaugural season 8 games under .500 with 31 wins, third worst in the league. Desite not making the playoffs, the Bulls still managed to draw respectable crowds, partially due to the curiosity factor, and partially due to the Flames' poor play in the NHL. A pre-season exhibition game saw the Bulls beat the Flames in a shootout, 7-6.

Still with a good nucleus which included future hall of famers Frank Mahovlich and Paul Henderson and John Garrett between the pipes, the team set about restructuring during the off-season. They opened the preseason on the road in exhibition play, but were shut out 3-0 by the Flames in a rematch from last year and a week later by St Louis 4 nothing. Overall the team saw a marginal drop in defensive play their second season but thanks to a late season run, managed to make the playoffs with 75 points and sixth place overall in the streamlined 8 team league. Unfortunately though, their opponents were the Winnipeg Jets, best in the league during regular play, and they bowed out in the first round of the playoffs in 5 games.

An offseason deal saw the Bulls trade Garrett to the Whalers, and Birmingham brought up hot young prospect Pat Riggin, who'd later play in the NHL for Atlanta/Calgary and the Washington Capitals. The Bulls played 2 exhibition matchups against the NHL in the preseason, two shutout losses, 3-0 to the Flames and 4-0 to St Louis. The league was now down to seven teams, by season's end it would be six. The only bright spot on the finale was John Brophy earning Coach of the Year. But his talent pool was sparce. Unfortunately Riggin's 3.78 GAA was indicitive of the Bulls' defensive woes. Despite the presence of some good young talent like Rob Ramage and Michel Goulet, much of their core had either been lured back to the NHL or had retired. The Bulls finished last with 70 points.

They were one of the six surviving teams when the league folded at the end of '78-'79 season. But along with Cincinnati, didn't make the move to the NHL with the Whalers, Jets, Nordiques and Oilers. Although their overall attendance was above average, drawing around 7,000 per game to Birmingham's Jefferson County Civic Center, the NHL was concerned about the future of hockey in Dixie. The Flames were barely flickering in Atlanta and the league opted not to chance a second team in the area. Had the Bulls been able to put a stronger team on the ice, it might have convinced NHL officials to allow them in, which in turn would probably have only helped the Flames and hockey in the south in general.