The World Hockey Association: A League That Added Colour To The Hockey World
From 1972-73 to 1978-79, the World Hockey Association existed as an alternative to the National Hockey League. Twenty-five different teams existed in some form during the short seven season lifetime of the league. Four other franchises were granted but never played a single game. In the end, only four teams remained to be swallowed up by the NHL.
Despite the fact that it was the Edmonton Oilers, Winnipeg Jets, Quebec Nordiques and New England (Hartford) Whalers that survived to play in the NHL, it was the Houston Aeros that were consistently the best team in the history of the WHA.
The Aeros, led by hockey legend Gordie Howe and his two sons, Mark and Marty, won the regular season championship four out of the seven years and won the Avco Cup as the WHA’s playoff champion twice.
The Aeros will forever hold several records in the WHA. Twice they reached the league record for most wins in a season with 53, 1974-75 and 1975-76. On three occasions, 1974-75, 1975-76 and 1976-77, Houston attained the league record 106 points. Along with the record for wins and points, it’s only logical that Houston would also hold the record for least losses with 24 in 1976-77.
Although the Winnipeg Jets hold the record for most goals in a season with 381 in 1977-78, Houston does hold the mark for the least goals against with 219 in 1973-74.
As for individual records, Houston is only on the map for the goalie with the lowest goals against average for one season. In 1973-74, Don McLeod set the mark with a 2.56 GAA in 49 games. Most goals in a season goes to legendary Bobby Hull of the Winnipeg Jets with 77 in 1974-75. Andre Lacroix set the assists mark in the same season with 106. In 1975-76, Marc Tardif of the Quebec Nordiques established the record for points with 154.
Four times over the seven year history of the league, players reached or surpassed the seventy goal plateau. Bobby Hull, of course, leads the way with his 77 in 1974-75 with the Jets. Real Cloutier is close behind, scoring 75 in 1978-79 for the Quebec Nordiques. Cloutier surpassed the 60 goal plateau twice with exactly 60 in 1975-76 and 66 in 1976-77. Marc Tardif scored 71 goals as part of his record point total in 1975-76. Tardif reached the 65 goal level in 1977-78. Anders Hedberg of the Winnipeg Jets reached exactly 70 goals in 1976-77, he was reduced to a still very respectable 63 the following season.
The beauty of holding a record or having won a championship in a defunct league is that no one is ever going to take your accomplishments away from you. There has been talk for years of reinventing the WHA. Even if they did, it would only be the same in name. There is no way to recapture the magic of this renegade league that stole star players from the NHL. The talent was there. The fun was there. If only there’d been a little better marketing, this league might still be around today.