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WHA - Challenge for the Stanley Cup?

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05-21-2013, 11:57 PM
  #1
GameEight
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WHA - Challenge for the Stanley Cup?

Sorry if this has been kicked around here already. But I've been wondering about this lately....

Suppose you could travel back in time to the mid-to-late 1970s, where you were a heavy-hitter in league management for the World Hockey Association. Maybe the league commissioner or something like that.

At a board meeting somebody makes the suggestion that the league should challenge the NHL's monopoly on the Stanley Cup, since the WHA's championship team - or so says this person - has a reasonable chance of defeating the NHL champion. A part of the evidence presented in support of this claim is found in the two league's exhibition match-ups, which of course doesn't tell the whole story, but does bolster the claim. Maybe the WHA's best teams are closer to the NHL's elite teams than some might think.

Keep in mind that you are pro-WHA, but that court costs etc are a consideration. Should you go all in and lose, the money spent won't bankrupt the league but the members don't have infinitely deep pockets either. You are accountable, and if you get to compete for the Cup, you could not only change the landscape of North American hockey, but elevate the WHA's prestige greatly.

Is the NHL's custody over the Cup, its monopoly, irrevocable at this point? Is the WHA's best now competitive enough to challenge? Can Canada's Governor General or somebody overrule the NHL's claim, if they refuse to consider the idea just because they think they are now legally entitled to, even if another league does emerge that is clearly competitive? What other factors enter into the equation?

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05-22-2013, 01:01 AM
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Killion
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Several other factors enter the equation. For starters, the only reason the WHA was ever formed wasnt to provide an alternate, competitive league. Thats BS. They formed to bust into the NHL on the cheap. Cities like Edmonton, Winnipeg & Hartford of no interest to the NHL. The founders of the WHA the same guys who formed the ABA, not to compete with the NBA, to force Amalgamation. So they devised their own Avco Cup, sponsored. A home-equity loan company. I mean, gimme a break here. What part of the WHA dont you get? They never "challenged" for the Stanley Cup because they were inferior & knew it. They never proposed an "inter-locking schedule" because they'd have gotten hammered. Beyond the 1st line and if they spent on goaltending, pathetic. Even then, lousy. It was Slapshot. Goons/Dirt. Trailer Park. Officiating was excellent, management not entirely shabby, but beyond that? Circus Circus.


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05-22-2013, 10:14 AM
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Quote:
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Several other factors enter the equation. For starters, the only reason the WHA was ever formed wasnt to provide an alternate, competitive league. Thats BS. They formed to bust into the NHL on the cheap.
I've never heard this explanation before.

Respectfully, however, it's kind of beside the point. I don't dispute that the NHL was the much better league, of course. But I'm wondering how this hypothetical speaks to the mandate of the Stanley Cup, and why the NHL got control of it, years after the last Western League folded and it became obvious that there was no other league, or league that could field *one* team that might contend against the NHL champion . . .


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05-22-2013, 11:37 AM
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I'm wondering how this hypothetical speaks to the mandate of the Stanley Cup, and why the NHL got control of it...
Stanley Cup trustees P.D. Ross and Cooper Smeaton signed an agreement in 1947 that basically handed over the Cup to the NHL. Among other things the agreement says:

Quote:
1. The Trustees hereby delegate to the League full authority to determine and amend from time to time the conditions for competition of the Stanley Cup, including the qualifications of challengers, the appointment of officials, the apportionment and distribution of all gate receipts, provided always that the winners of this trophy shall be the acknowledged World's Professional Hockey Champions.
2. The Trustees agree that during the currency of this agreement they will not acknowledge or accept any challenge for the Stanley Cup unless such a challenge is in conformity with the condition specified in paragraph one (1) thereof.
(...)
5. This agreement shall remain in force so long as the League continues to be the world's leading professional hockey league as determined by its playing caliber, and in the event of dissolution or other termination of the National Hockey League, the Stanley Cup shall revert to the custody of the trustees.

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05-22-2013, 11:58 AM
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Afl

Quote:
Originally Posted by Killion View Post
Several other factors enter the equation. For starters, the only reason the WHA was ever formed wasnt to provide an alternate, competitive league. Thats BS. They formed to bust into the NHL on the cheap. Cities like Edmonton, Winnipeg & Hartford of no interest to the NHL. The founders of the WHA the same guys who formed the ABA, not to compete with the NBA, to force Amalgamation. So they devised their own Avco Cup, sponsored. A home-equity loan company. I mean, gimme a break here. What part of the WHA dont you get? They never "challenged" for the Stanley Cup because they were inferior & knew it. They never proposed an "inter-locking schedule" because they'd have gotten hammered. Beyond the 1st line and if they spent on goaltending, pathetic. Even then, lousy. It was Slapshot. Goons/Dirt. Trailer Park. Officiating was excellent, management not entirely shabby, but beyond that? Circus Circus.
AFL model forcing a merger with the NFL was the seminal model. ABA then WHA surfaced.

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05-22-2013, 12:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Killion View Post
Several other factors enter the equation. For starters, the only reason the WHA was ever formed wasnt to provide an alternate, competitive league. Thats BS. They formed to bust into the NHL on the cheap. Cities like Edmonton, Winnipeg & Hartford of no interest to the NHL. The founders of the WHA the same guys who formed the ABA, not to compete with the NBA, to force Amalgamation. So they devised their own Avco Cup, sponsored. A home-equity loan company. I mean, gimme a break here. What part of the WHA dont you get? They never "challenged" for the Stanley Cup because they were inferior & knew it. They never proposed an "inter-locking schedule" because they'd have gotten hammered. Beyond the 1st line and if they spent on goaltending, pathetic. Even then, lousy. It was Slapshot. Goons/Dirt. Trailer Park. Officiating was excellent, management not entirely shabby, but beyond that? Circus Circus.
Jets founder Ben Hatskin did have conversations with Clarence Campbell about receiving an expansion team back in 1970. The 7.2M price tag along with the requirement of a 16,000 arena made that impossible at the time.

The WHA/NHL in terms of quality players has been debated endlessly. Shortly after the Jets became the first club team to defeat the Soviet Red Army (a team mostly comprised of the same players who tied the Canadiens back on Dec.31, 1975), the Jets issued a challenge to the then Stanley Cup champion Habs.

Montreal declined and war of words ensued. This may have led to the nay vote by the Canadiens owner when the WHA first hoped at merging with the big show. A boycott of Molson products across Manitoba ensued and next merger vote was a success.

Could the Jets have competed with the dynasty Habs of the 70's? Offensively, the teams were fairly even with the Hull - Hedberg - Nilsson line one of best to ever play the game. Defense and goaltending would have been the Jets downfall. Robinson, Savard etc. were vastly superior to anyone the Jets had at the time.

Over a 7 game series....... Habs in 5.

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05-22-2013, 12:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Theokritos View Post
This agreement shall remain in force so long as the League continues to be the world's leading professional hockey league as determined by its playing caliber
Interesting. This clause would seem to answer to the possibility that the WHA may have been able to field a team or two that could compete for the Cup: the NHL wouldn't have to rescind its monopoly because the 'league' is too bottom heavy.

By the way, who exactly has the power to say that the 'agreement shall no longer remain in force'?

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05-22-2013, 12:17 PM
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Originally Posted by JMT21 View Post
Shortly after the Jets became the first club team to defeat the Soviet Red Army (a team mostly comprised of the same players who tied the Canadiens back on Dec.31, 1975), the Jets issued a challenge to the then Stanley Cup champion Habs.

Montreal declined and war of words ensued. .
Wow. I did not know this. I was out of the country then. Were the Jets not just challenging Montreal, but also gain the Stanley Cup if they won?

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05-22-2013, 12:22 PM
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Continental League

The Continental League was supposed to be the third major baseball league starting in 1961.

Quickly fell apart once MLB announced expansion or re-location in 1961 and 1962 with a franchise - New York Mets awarded to one of the leagues main proponents.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continental_League

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05-22-2013, 02:46 PM
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JMT21
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Originally Posted by GameEight View Post
Wow. I did not know this. I was out of the country then. Were the Jets not just challenging Montreal, but also gain the Stanley Cup if they won?
No.. Stanley Cup played no part..... just a friendly challenge was issued.... but not accepted.

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05-22-2013, 03:17 PM
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Jets founder Ben Hatskin did have conversations with Clarence Campbell about receiving an expansion team back in 1970. The 7.2M price tag along with the requirement of a 16,000 arena made that impossible at the time.

The WHA/NHL in terms of quality players has been debated endlessly. Shortly after the Jets became the first club team to defeat the Soviet Red Army (a team mostly comprised of the same players who tied the Canadiens back on Dec.31, 1975), the Jets issued a challenge to the then Stanley Cup champion Habs.

Montreal declined and war of words ensued. This may have led to the nay vote by the Canadiens owner when the WHA first hoped at merging with the big show. A boycott of Molson products across Manitoba ensued and next merger vote was a success.

Could the Jets have competed with the dynasty Habs of the 70's? Offensively, the teams were fairly even with the Hull - Hedberg - Nilsson line one of best to ever play the game. Defense and goaltending would have been the Jets downfall. Robinson, Savard etc. were vastly superior to anyone the Jets had at the time.

Over a 7 game series....... Habs in 5.
I highly doubt the Jets could even compete offensively with the Habs at that time. We saw what Hedberg and Nilsson could do in the NHL in 1979 and while they were good players, the only other significant player the Jets had was a very old Bobby Hull. Kent Nilsson was very young or not around yet in Hedberg and the former Nilsson's last year in 1978. They had Sjoberg on D who was very good, but who else? Even their goaltender (Daley?) was not an NHL calibre goalie. The Habs would have hammered them in 4.

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05-22-2013, 05:05 PM
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The Jets in the 1970s with Hedberg, Hull and Nilsson were an nhl caliber team, Joe Daley was a very, very solid goalie who played all seven seasons of the WHA for the Jets, (He retired and has owned a sports card shop in Winnipeg ever since), Terrible Teddy Green, Thommie Bergmann and Perry Miller were keys on the blue line as was Lars-Eric Sjoberg. Willie Lindstrom, Kent Nilsson and Peter Sullivan, as well as Dan Labraatan and Norm Beaudin gave the team a strong group of forwards. Out of the seven year run of the WHA they won three Avco cups and lost in the finals twice.
In short they were loaded.
Could this club have competed with the Canadiens or Flyers? Of course not, they had a solid club that was probably as good as some lower end playoff teams, say the Atlanta Flames who always made it in and got knocked out in the first round.Problem is, their were half a dozen true NHLers, a half a dozen Europeans who could play and that left a half a dozen guys who never would make it in the nhl under any circumstance. It was not the front line talent that would have done them in, it was the secondary skill players. You can hide them when you are playing a bunch of retreads and has beens and never weres, when you are playing the best teams in the world, the NHL, the weaknesses would have been exposed.
I have studied the history of the WHA for quite some time, no team from the league was in their best year a cup contender.

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05-22-2013, 06:25 PM
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We should put together a WHA vs NHL All Stars matchup, 72-79, see how that shakes out.

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05-22-2013, 06:57 PM
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It was an offer that the WHA couldn't lose to. But the Habs and the NHL had a TON to lose. In reality the Habs would have slaughtered them in 4 games. They did this to Boston in 1977 let alone the best team in a minor league. With the Habs you had Lafleur, Shutt, Lemaire, Gainey, the Big 3 on defense and then Dryden in net. No NHL team beat them in a 4 year stretch, how could the Jets have competed with them?

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05-22-2013, 07:55 PM
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The WHA and NHL played preseason games against each other fairly regularly and while I am a bit under the weather and too tired to look it up, the WHA won more than their share.... Now keep in mind it was only preseason but I am sure both leagues wanted to win these exhibitions to retain bragging rights.

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05-22-2013, 08:28 PM
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The WHA and NHL played preseason games against each other fairly regularly and while I am a bit under the weather and too tired to look it up, the WHA won more than their share...
WHA was 34-22-7 against NHL clubs over the 4yrs they played pre-season games. No real blowouts either way that I could find.

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05-22-2013, 08:46 PM
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WHA was 34-22-7 against NHL clubs over the 4yrs they played pre-season games. No real blowouts either way that I could find.
No way, the WHA was made entirely of AHLers.

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05-22-2013, 08:51 PM
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No way, the WHA was made entirely of AHLers.
... www.whahockey.com/whavsnhl.html

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05-23-2013, 04:23 PM
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WHA was 34-22-7 against NHL clubs over the 4yrs they played pre-season games. No real blowouts either way that I could find.
Interesting stat but can we really judge the competition with preseason games? I also see that there's not a lot of games with the NHL's best from 74-79 Montreal, Boston, Philadelphia, Buffalo and the NY Islanders. The 1977 Habs would destroy any WHA team, and it's not even close.

I think a more interesting question would be this: How would the top WHA teams fare if they were playing against some average or below average teams from that era? Teams like Washington, Pittsburgh, California/Cleveland, St. Louis, Detroit, Vancouver, Minnesota, etc?

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05-23-2013, 04:50 PM
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I think a more interesting question would be this: How would the top WHA teams fare if they were playing against some average or below average teams from that era? Teams like Washington, Pittsburgh, California/Cleveland, St. Louis, Detroit, Vancouver, Minnesota, etc?
In all honesty, meeting regularly I think they'd have faired pretty well, New England & Winnipeg in particular possibly doing better than just average. Though pre-season, I think both the NHL & certainly the WHA teams wouldve taken these games fairly seriously, though that perhaps cant be said for all of the NHL clubs. Hard to say, nor would be inclined to write-off a matchup between WHA AllStars vs either the Montreal Canadiens or a Bruins or team of NHL AllStars.

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05-23-2013, 05:00 PM
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Nordiques and Houston Aeros were a pretty solid teams. Indianapolis and Birmingham had the core of a potential powerhouse. NHL owners nixed many of the merger proposals. They only accepted the final merger after they stripped the WHA teams bare because they knew the WHA teams would embarrass most of the NHL clubs. With the exception of teams like Montreal, Islanders, Boston and Philadelphia, the best WHA teams would give the NHL a good whipping.

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05-24-2013, 07:34 AM
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Nordiques and Houston Aeros were a pretty solid teams. Indianapolis and Birmingham had the core of a potential powerhouse. NHL owners nixed many of the merger proposals. They only accepted the final merger after they stripped the WHA teams bare because they knew the WHA teams would embarrass most of the NHL clubs. With the exception of teams like Montreal, Islanders, Boston and Philadelphia, the best WHA teams would give the NHL a good whipping.
indeed... years after the merger..... Emile Francis was asked about the barbarian restrictions placed on the WHA teams when they entered the league.

He said in hindsight it was extremely unfair but had to be done as the NHL couldn't afford to bring in new teams that would immediately be better than half of it's current member teams.

The Jets & Nords teams would likely have made the play-offs in their first season had they been allowed to remain intact.

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05-24-2013, 07:55 AM
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Jets founder Ben Hatskin did have conversations with Clarence Campbell about receiving an expansion team back in 1970. The 7.2M price tag along with the requirement of a 16,000 arena made that impossible at the time.

The WHA/NHL in terms of quality players has been debated endlessly. Shortly after the Jets became the first club team to defeat the Soviet Red Army (a team mostly comprised of the same players who tied the Canadiens back on Dec.31, 1975), the Jets issued a challenge to the then Stanley Cup champion Habs.

Montreal declined and war of words ensued. This may have led to the nay vote by the Canadiens owner when the WHA first hoped at merging with the big show. A boycott of Molson products across Manitoba ensued and next merger vote was a success.

Could the Jets have competed with the dynasty Habs of the 70's? Offensively, the teams were fairly even with the Hull - Hedberg - Nilsson line one of best to ever play the game. Defense and goaltending would have been the Jets downfall. Robinson, Savard etc. were vastly superior to anyone the Jets had at the time.

Over a 7 game series....... Habs in 5.
Offesnse fairly even?

After the top line the Jets had Peter Sullivan, Willy Linstrom and Veli-Pekka Ketola.

http://www.hockey-reference.com/teams/WNJ/1976.html

Habs in 4 easily and by double digit scores if they actually played at full throttle.

The Nordiques might have given them a better challenge if King Richard was able to stand on his head and might even win a single game but it's unlikely.

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05-24-2013, 10:46 PM
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The Nordiques might have given them a better challenge if King Richard was able to stand on his head and might even win a single game

Obvious homer comment. Habs would've eaten Brodeur ALIVE. Truth is, Brodeur, well, he kinda, sorta really sucked.

Here's my '82 heresies:

[1] Stan Smyl & Thomas Gradin were actually the two key performers on the Canucks team during that run

&

[2] Brodeur was heavily protected by Roger Neilson's defensive system. He was toast once he met the Islanders. The myth of King Richard lives on!

/end hijack

back to the thread...

Jets entering the NHL with their core intact say 75-76 or 76-77 would've been a competitive team, but I can't see them beating the Habs, & they would've had trouble beating some of the other top teams of the era in the playoffs like the Flyers, Bruins, Rangers & Sabres.

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05-25-2013, 09:37 AM
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Interesting stat but can we really judge the competition with preseason games? I also see that there's not a lot of games with the NHL's best from 74-79 Montreal, Boston, Philadelphia, Buffalo and the NY Islanders. The 1977 Habs would destroy any WHA team, and it's not even close.

I think a more interesting question would be this: How would the top WHA teams fare if they were playing against some average or below average teams from that era? Teams like Washington, Pittsburgh, California/Cleveland, St. Louis, Detroit, Vancouver, Minnesota, etc?
THAT is the question. While looking back it is easy to feel warm and fuzzy over the Habs and big bad bruins, the league had a fair share of inept Colorado Rockies, Washington Capitals and Cleveland Barons.
I feel confident stating that the Jets, Whalers, Nordiques and Aeros were better than the bottom rung teams in the nhl. Also, the top end Jets teams were better than the lower end playoff teams in the NHL as well as possibly a few more of the WHA teams in a given year could have at least hung with the Atlanta flames of the world.
The so called merger, which was in reality a **** and pillage and plunder by the NHL in exchange for the WHA teams coming in as an expansion teams was horrible, the jets had lost their Swedes but had retooled with the purchase of half the Aeros players after they folded, the Jets would have hit the league running, so would the Nordiques at the very least.
So, would a WHA team have hung with the dynasty Canadien team? No, don't be silly.
Could they have hung with at least the lower rung or middle rung clubs? Absolutely.

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