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Actually, I’ll start with the WHA, just as an introduction

May 29, 2010

But first, a short historical summary of the WHA.

Now, for those of you that don’t know, the WHA (World Hockey Association) was a real competitor with the NHL back in the day (the day being the 1970s).
Not a strong competitor, mind you, but the closest thing North America had in a major two-league system since the American League and the National League in professional baseball.
Well, the WHA had some impressive stars, between skaters of : “The Great One” Wayne Gretzky, “Mr. Hockey” Gordie Howe (as well as his sons, Mark and Marty), “The Golden Jet” Bobby Hull, and  Mark “The Moose” Messier

As well as goaltenders: Gerry Cheevers, Bernie Parent, and “Jake the Snake” Jacques Plante

Wayne Gretzky went to the upstart WHA instead of the established powerhouse NHL for one simple reason: amateur eligibility.  The NHL required players to play amateur of semi-pro hockey (mainly in the Canadian Junior leagues) until the age of 20. The WHA? Not so much. So Gretzky signed with the Indianapolis Racers, and then eventually went over the the Edmonton Oilers, where he would stay until after the league folded and the Oilers were picked up by the NHL.

Cheevers  has one of the most iconic masks in hockey history: Masks were just beginning to adorn goaltender’s faces (thanks to the mainstreaming [but not introduction] of them by Jacques Plante) with the introduction of curved blades of Stan Mikita and “The Golden Jet” Bobby Hull (Fittingly, he even ended up in the WHA’s Winnipeg Jets) that rocketed pucks in ways never seen before. Goalies would break bones in their faces when hit, and started to wear masks, but they weren’t 100% effective. One day, Cheevers was hit by a puck in the mask at practice, and went to the locker room to sit out (he despised practices, as one would expect a goalie to). The trainer, jokingly, told him how many stitches he would have needed if he wasn’t wearing a mask, then drew them on his white mask, and sent him back out.
Cheevers stiched up mask
As you can see, he got hit in the face, a lot.

The WHA eventually folded due to instability of ownership and teams (many relocated, or even were terminated in the middle of the season!)

But the WHA gave us a few things. First off, it brought European players to North America to play hockey, something unheard of in the NHL.  It also gave many Americans a chance in professional hockey.  Overtime was introduced in the WHA, as there were far too many ties in the NHL.

There’s my little history lesson for the day. If  you want to know about any of the other players,  teams, or the league itself, you can wait for the next few posts, or just go ahead and ask.

Here’s to tomorrow.

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