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1972-73
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1978-79

1978-79

• With both the WHA and the NHL struggling financially, merger talks between the two leagues start to intensify in the off-season. After learning that they would not be included in any merger, the Houston Aeros fold, leaving the WHA down to seven teams.

• Your eyes are not playing tricks on you to the right -- Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier started their careers in the WHA. In fact, they were teammates on the Indianapolis Racers. Gretzky, 17 years old at the time, was signed to a personal services contract -- his first career goal, ironically, was scored against the Edmonton Oilers. Eight games into the season, Racers owner Nelson Skalbania, desperately needing money to keep his team afloat, sold Gretzky to the Oilers. Messier, also 17 years old at the time, was signed to a five-game tryout with the Racers; after failing to register a point, he was released and signed shortly thereafter by the Cincinnati Stingers.

• Skalbania's fire sale of Gretzky and others failed to stave off financial disaster, and the Racers folded on December 15, 1978, after playing 25 games. That left the WHA down to six teams.

• For the second year in a row, international teams would take on WHA teams in games that counted in the standings. Each of the six remaining teams hosted one game against both the Soviet and Czechoslovakian national teams. The Soviets went 4-1-1, and the Czechs went 1-4-1. Also, the Oilers hosted the Finnish national team, beating them 8-4.

• In lieu of the All-Star game, a group of WHA All-Stars played a three-game series in Edmonton against Dynamo Moscow of the Soviet Union. The WHA team won all three games.

• On March 22, 1979, NHL owners ratify a merger agreement with the WHA. It ended up being much less a merger rather than the NHL taking in four teams from the rapidly-sinking WHA. The deal was heavily tilted in the NHL's favor. The four teams -- the Edmonton Oilers, New England Whalers (who would change their name to the Hartford Whalers at the insistence of the Boston Bruins), Quebec Nordiques and Winnipeg Jets -- would be considered expansion teams. None of their WHA histories would be recognized by the NHL, and all players (except two skaters and two goalies that each team would be able to protect) were subject to a reclamation draft by their former NHL teams. The Birmingham Bulls and Cincinnati Stingers would join the NHL-owned Central Hockey League for the 1979-80 season -- both would eventually fold.

• On May 20, 1979, the last game in WHA history was played. The Winnipeg Jets beat the Edmonton Oilers, 7-3, to win their third Avco Cup championship. Dave Semenko of the Oilers earned the distinction of scoring the last goal in WHA history, albeit coming with 12 seconds left in the third period when the outcome was not in doubt. The Avco Cup that the Jets skated around with in Winnipeg Arena now resides permanently in Winnipeg.



Birmingham Bulls


Cincinnati Stingers


Edmonton Oilers


Indianapolis Racers


New England Whalers


Quebec Nordiques


Winnipeg Jets


WHA All-Stars