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09-09-2011, 01:43 PM
  #6
Turbofan
Just shoot it Toby!!
 
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Join Date: May 2007
Location: Winnipeg
Country: Canada
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The final two seasons of the WHA saw the debut of many superstars, some of which became hockey legends in the NHL. They included Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Ken Linseman, and Mike Gartner. The Birmingham franchise alone would feature future NHLers Rick Vaive, Michel Goulet, Rob Ramage, Craig Hartsburg and Gaston Gingras.

However, by the end of the final season, only six teams remained. Facing financial difficulty and unable to meet payrolls, the WHA finally came to an agreement with the NHL in early 1979. Under the deal, four WHA clubs the Edmonton Oilers, New England Whalers (renamed the Hartford Whalers), Quebec Nordiques and Winnipeg Jets joined the NHL. The other two WHA teams, the Cincinnati Stingers and Birmingham Bulls, were paid $1.5 million apiece in compensation. The agreement was very tilted in the NHL's favour. The older league treated the new clubs' arrival as an expansion, not a merger, so the four WHA refugees thus had to pay a $6 million franchise fee. The NHL also refused to recognize any WHA records. While the new clubs were allowed to stock their rosters with an expansion draft, NHL teams were allowed to reclaim players who had jumped to the WHA.

The WHA was able to wrangle only two concessions. First, the WHA teams were allowed to protect two goaltenders and two skaters to keep their rosters from being completely stripped clean by the old-line NHL teams. Second, the NHL allowed all of the WHA's Canadian teams to be part of the deal. The NHL had originally only been willing to take the Oilers, Whalers and Jets, but the WHA insisted that the Nordiques be included as well.

The deal came up for a vote at the NHL Board of Governors meeting in Key Largo, Florida on March 8. Despite the one-sided nature of the proposal, the final tally was 12-5, one vote short of passage, as a three-quarters majority was required to permit merger (13 teams out of 17 would have represented 76.5% of the league). The Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings, Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs and Vancouver Canucks all voted against the deal. The Bruins weren't pleased with having to share New England with the Whalers. Los Angeles and Vancouver feared losing home dates with NHL teams from the East. Montreal and Toronto weren't enamored at the prospect of having to split revenue from Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts six ways rather than three. Maple Leafs owner Ballard had a personal grudge as well; he'd never forgiven the WHA for plundering his team's roster in the early 1970s.

When a second vote was held in Chicago on March 22, however, Montreal and Vancouver changed their votes, allowing the deal to go forward. Vancouver was won over by the promise of a balanced schedule, with each team playing the others twice at home and twice on the road. The Canadiens' owners, Molson Breweries, were feeling the effects of a massive boycott that originated in Edmonton, Quebec City, and Winnipeg and spread across Canada. With the boycott severely hurting Molson's sales, the brewer reached agreement with the 3 Canadian WHA teams to have Molson become the exclusive supplier of beer to their arenas; it is probable that this concession was made in exchange for the Canadiens' vote.
Fascinating. The power of beer.

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