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Opinions on the WHA's reputation?

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Old
12-27-2011, 08:25 PM
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Hot Water Bottle
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Opinions on the WHA's reputation?

The WHA - was it a disaster from hell that plundered a generation of players when the NHL needed them?

or did they do a positive thing to add a little healthy competition and some new teams?

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12-27-2011, 09:25 PM
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TasteofFlames
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The WHA is one of the most important events in the history of the game. Because of the new league, the NHL had to do away with the reserve clause and the owners had to pay players their market value. Playing hockey could now not only get you paid, but you got paid well. Also, the WHA is why player can now enter the league at age 18. Before the WHA, the NHL had an agreement with the CHL that only allowed players to be promoted to the pros at the age of 20. Teams in the WHA would routinely sign top junior player to big contracts at 18, leading to the NHL changing its deal with the CHL, and allowing 18yo to play in the league.

While not everything the WHA did was good, the league and the players are better off because of its brief existence.

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12-27-2011, 09:43 PM
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Big Phil
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I know that during the 1972 Summit Series the story goes that Wayne Cashman gave Bobby Hull complimentary tickets to one of the games and when Hull asked why he responded: "Thanks to you my salary just tripled." In other words, because of Hull's gigantic contract in the WHA you either got a gigantic raise by going to the WHA or because your NHL team wanted to keep you.

So I think off the ice it was a good thing. However, the product on the ice was suspect. I know some people swear by Marc Tardif, but he was a star in the WHA, not the NHL. Robbie Ftorek, Mike Walton and others were examples of guys who led the WHA in significant categories only to never be anywhere near that level before or after in the NHL.

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12-27-2011, 09:57 PM
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Killion
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I believe there was 65 or 70 NHL'er's who made the jump to the WHA in its first season, augmented by minor leaguer's and the first major wave of European talent (most notably in Winnipeg) and to a lesser extent a number of Americans who also began their pro careers in the WHA. In intraleague exhibition games the WHA won more than they lost. According to Les Binkley, a guy who'd played in virtually every single league since the 50's including the NHL & who rounded out his career in the WHA, it was one of if not the toughest leagues he'd ever played in including the NHL due to its wide open style of play & general rough housing.

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12-27-2011, 10:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Big Phil View Post
I know that during the 1972 Summit Series the story goes that Wayne Cashman gave Bobby Hull complimentary tickets to one of the games and when Hull asked why he responded: "Thanks to you my salary just tripled." In other words, because of Hull's gigantic contract in the WHA you either got a gigantic raise by going to the WHA or because your NHL team wanted to keep you.

So I think off the ice it was a good thing. However, the product on the ice was suspect. I know some people swear by Marc Tardif, but he was a star in the WHA, not the NHL. Robbie Ftorek, Mike Walton and others were examples of guys who led the WHA in significant categories only to never be anywhere near that level before or after in the NHL.
All 3 guys listed had fairly productive spurts in the NHL given there situations and ages when they played back in the NHL.

As for the overall impact it did increase salaries which was probably a good thing for the players and the WHA also led the European exodus into North America for the most part.

It would have happened anyways since Salming and Hammarstrong were with the Leafs in 74 but I think the WHA accelerated the way the NHL probably would have transformed anyways.

Edit: Tardif was 2nd in PPG for 30-31 year olds in the 3 year period between 79-81 so it's a bit unfair to say that he wasn't a star in the NHL


http://www.hockey-reference.com/play...rder_by=points

Robbie Ftorek scored at pretty close to a PPG rate for 3 seasons aged 28-30 in the NHL while Mike "Shaky" Walton also scored at a PPG rate aged 31-33 for a pretty weak Vancouver Canuck team.

Sure their scoring exploits were a bit of a drop off from their WHA heights but they are hardly the best 3 examples to use IMO given their ages and circumstances in their returns to the NHL.


Last edited by Hardyvan123: 12-27-2011 at 11:43 PM.
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12-27-2011, 10:43 PM
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hardyvan123 View Post
all 3 guys lsited had fairly productive spurts in the nHL given there situations and ages when they played back in the NHL.

As for the overall impact it did increase salaries which was probably a good thing for the players and the WHA also led the European exodus into North America for the most part.

It would have happened anyways since Salming and Hammarstrong were with the Leafs in 74 but I think the WHA accelerated the way the NHL probably would have transformed anyways.
True enough, though remember too it was the threat of a rival league that precipitated the 67 Expansion combined with the goal to secure a decent TV contract, with the then WHL playing out of a lot of attractive markets in the west & challenging the NHL's supremacy somewhat. Had they kept the status quo its unlikely Europeans wouldve arrived until a more uniformed & pre-planned, frankly more intelligent expansion process & plan had been formulated & executed. With the WHA, it was all out War. For locations & players. Jimmy Pattison here in Vancouver offering Phil Esposito $2.5M to join his Blazers for example...

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12-27-2011, 11:19 PM
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The WHA definitely shook up the Good Old Boys Club. Expansion and increased salaries are the obvious results. But Killion has a good point that points to another influence of the WHA - the WHA was much more friendly towards importing European players than the NHL at the time was.

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12-27-2011, 11:46 PM
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I think Canadian fans, in particular, are indebted to the WHA. As late as 1978-79, there were only three Canadian teams in the entire NHL. Without the WHA and the merger, the NHL would have likely continued to happily ignore Canadian markets.

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12-28-2011, 12:30 AM
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...the WHA was much more friendly towards importing European players than the NHL at the time was.
Indeed so, and of course the real trail blazers were Hedburg & Nilsson (with Hull) in Winnipeg of the WHA, Salming in Toronto with the NHL during the early to mid-70's, the latter an "accidental find" by Leafs Scout Gerry McNamara who just happened to see Borje' Salming playing while taking a look see at Inge Hammarstrom. He brought them both over, Salming taking to the NHL brand like a Duck to Water, Hammarstrom not so much, with Ballards nasty line that "he could go into the corners with a carton of eggs in his pants and not break any". It was all very much "experimental".

A Euro xenophobia existed (that still exists today in some circles unfortunately) that was woven into the very fabric of the game on this side of the ocean. With NHL Expansion & the rise of the WHA, supply couldnt keep up with demand through the CHL, opening the door, finally, for US born players who opted for NCAA rather than Major Junior, giving that circuit & system the respectability it deserved & of course opened the door to European players, many of whom had been playing pro for a decade or more in their homelands before arriving in North America. Without the WHA, the Summit Series & Canada Cups', the Winter Olympics & the Miracle on Ice in 1980, Id be willing to bet the acceptance of both US & European players wouldve been a slow train coming, and slow enough arriving as it was.

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12-28-2011, 02:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nutbar View Post
I think Canadian fans, in particular, are indebted to the WHA. As late as 1978-79, there were only three Canadian teams in the entire NHL. Without the WHA and the merger, the NHL would have likely continued to happily ignore Canadian markets.
Vancouver is not in canada? They were added after the fact so I doubt they would ignore canadian markets. All though they might have not been added as fast.

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12-28-2011, 10:31 AM
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I was too young to follow the WHA, at the time. I was 9 when the WHA had their final season.

Looking back upon history, the WHA left a rather large mark on the NHL, many of which had already been mentioned:

The NHL was pretty much forced to add NHL teams in Nassau County and Atlanta to prevent the WHA from putting teams there.

The WHA's legal battle that resulted in the end of the NHL's reserve clause.

The use of 18 and 19 year olds.

The use of European players.

And...
Quote:
Originally Posted by nutbar View Post
I think Canadian fans, in particular, are indebted to the WHA. As late as 1978-79, there were only three Canadian teams in the entire NHL. Without the WHA and the merger, the NHL would have likely continued to happily ignore Canadian markets.
Quote:
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Vancouver is not in canada? They were added after the fact so I doubt they would ignore canadian markets. All though they might have not been added as fast.
By 1970, there were three teams in Canada, all in the NHL. By 1976, there were another six, all courtesy of the WHA.

By the time the war was starting to end, it cost the established league one team in the Cleveland Barons. The WHA experiment that placed franchises in many different places ended up placing four into the NHL. In 1970, there were three NHL franchises in Canada; by 1991, there were eight, as both the WHA and NHL left a hole in the southern US by retrenching from their southern markets. And player salaries escalated, which caused many of the former WHA franchises to leave their homes in the mid- to late-1990's.

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12-28-2011, 11:07 AM
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The free competition is always good. I believe the raise of KHL will have positive effect on global hockey.

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12-28-2011, 12:15 PM
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Vancouver is not in canada? They were added after the fact so I doubt they would ignore canadian markets. All though they might have not been added as fast.
Vancouver was not exactly added without a fight and the Leafs and Habs threw up a stink about the Canadian WHA franchises being admitted to the NHL, so it may have taken decades for the NHL to expand in Canada.

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12-28-2011, 12:44 PM
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The WHA definitely had a huge impact on the NHL. Does the name Gretzky ring a bell? Player salaries also took off. Dave Keon was still an effective hockey player, so was Bernie Parent. There were a few NHL players that could still stand out in the NHL, that came over to the WHA. It also had a big impact on my life. I was a local WHA Linesman for the Minnesota Fighting Saints games and that's where I met my wife, who worked for the Saints.

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12-28-2011, 01:20 PM
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I think it was great for hockey. Markets like Edmonton, Hartford, Winnipeg, etc got teams when the reality is the NHL would never go there. We saw great Europeans like Hedberg, Nillson, Sjoberg, Nedomansky,etc and who could forget the Soviet Nationals touring the WHA in 1976-77 and 1977-78 or Winnipeg and Quebec travelling to Moscow for the Izvetstia Tournament. These were things the NHL never did.

And above all. The NHL is a business - plain and simple. It's purpose is to make money, nothing more. Just like GM, Ford, IBM, etc. And the WHA added some tough business competition. A business is always forced to improve when it has to face competition.

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12-28-2011, 01:38 PM
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The NHL had tripled the number of teams within a decade, so it's not exactly as if we needed more cities. But I agree about the other points.

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12-28-2011, 02:15 PM
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Originally Posted by begbeee View Post
The free competition is always good. I believe the raise of KHL will have positive effect on global hockey.
The "rise" of the KHL has been a lot less than some of the hype predicted.

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12-28-2011, 02:59 PM
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From a Seals fan point of view, it was disastrous as my club was hit hard by defections. From a general hockey fan point of view, I loved it. Loved the colorful jerseys, the colorful characters, the whole flying-by-the-seat-of-the-pants nature of everything about the league.

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12-28-2011, 04:54 PM
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Vancouver was not exactly added without a fight and the Leafs and Habs threw up a stink about the Canadian WHA franchises being admitted to the NHL, so it may have taken decades for the NHL to expand in Canada.
Yes indeedy, and Im sure it wouldve'. Way back in 63 Stafford Smythe & Harold Ballard approached Vancouver City Council, asking for the deed to some land gratis in order to build an arena, as the new guard lead by Jennings in NY kept pressing for Expansion. Smythe & Ballard were none too nice about asking, Vancouver telling them no, Smythe then vowing that as long as he lived, Vancouver would never get a team. We know how that turned out. Not well for Stafford who died facing jail time. Ten years later it took a Boycott of Molsons products to force acceptance of the Canadian WHA refugee's, and even then, the punitive nature of Amalgamation all but sealed the fates of Winnipeg & Quebec.

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The "rise" of the KHL has been a lot less than some of the hype predicted.
Thats for sure. All bark & no bite. That dog dont hunt & I dont think it ever really will, despite the involvement of several multi-billionaire Russian Oligarchs, with Putin making it clear to them btw that it "wouldnt be wise" for them to invest in the NHL or hockey in North America.

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12-28-2011, 05:32 PM
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From a Seals fan point of view, it was disastrous as my club was hit hard by defections. From a general hockey fan point of view, I loved it. Loved the colorful jerseys, the colorful characters, the whole flying-by-the-seat-of-the-pants nature of everything about the league.
Agreed, the WHA was pretty neat. If a rival league was attempted today, I would ignore it as irrelevant. The WHA came at the right time for me to appreciate it.

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12-28-2011, 06:04 PM
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One would have to be an insider to know what the WHA was thinking and the exact nature of the business model.
For the first two seasons about 6 -7 WHA teams were in direct competition with existing NHL markets. It was a bold move perhaps, though not very well thought through.
The WHA helped usher in the modern era of player agents with the sugning of Bobby Hull and Derek Sanderson. For better or worse Allan Eagleson became a household name.
Commercially the WHA never really challenged the NHL, but it did bid up the price of players contracts. One of the few GM's that took the challenge seriously was Emile Francis of the New York Rangers, their payroll fattened and defections were few.
Most of the early WHA stars were players like Ron Ward, Norm Beaudin and Danny Lawson.
The WHA also gave fans a chance to watch real former hockey greats Like Gordie Howe, Harry Howell and Ab McDonald.
The WHA was a total seat of the pants operation but it was really fun.

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12-28-2011, 06:23 PM
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Agreed, the WHA was pretty neat. If a rival league was attempted today, I would ignore it as irrelevant. The WHA came at the right time for me to appreciate it.
Ya, they were really interesting times to have lived through, and I consider myself fortunate to have done so & witnessed it all. I stopped playing hockey around 73 but remember clearly as a Junior you suddenly had a wealth of choices.

That previously didnt exist unless you were connected, in as much of on any given teams selection processes, decisions were often predicated on whether or not youd come up through their amateur systems, and often starting with Atoms & Pee Wee's. A sort of "pass" if you will that based on the scouts & coaches knowledge & experience of the player (and by rote his parents) dependability & reliability, no surprises trumped better players in a lot of cases.

At least that was case in Toronto & much of Southern Ontario. Imports from outside of any given organizations cliques' were held to much higher standards if they hoped to make it because they'd be "usurping" or "displacing" players that the organization had fostered since aged 8, 10, 12 or 14 with their Major Junior entries in the OHA.

With the WHA dropping Draft eligibility requirements to 18, and in fact Skalbania going it one further by signing 17yr olds (Gretzky, Messier) to Personal Services Contracts instead of WHA SPC's one could make the step up without any apprenticeships in the minors or time served in Major Junior for 2-4yrs. It really accelerated the process if one was ambitious & full of youthful hubris, as most teenagers are wont to be anyway.

It was an extremely interesting league if you were a connoisseur. A hodge-podge of older, talented minor league types who had been given a bum rap by the NHL & buried years earlier with dozens of guys who were basically just Mustangs unbroken by their former NHL masters. Never really given a chance because they had an "attitude", the wrong haircut or some other defect that an ultra conservative couldnt & wouldnt stomach. If you were a Wunderkind, "Welcome to the Bigs Kid!". All of that augmented by "names" who were supposedly past their Best Due Dates & European Imports / kids from the US who more than proved their mettle & worth.


Last edited by Killion: 12-29-2011 at 03:36 PM.
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12-29-2011, 03:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Hardyvan123 View Post
All 3 guys listed had fairly productive spurts in the NHL given there situations and ages when they played back in the NHL.

As for the overall impact it did increase salaries which was probably a good thing for the players and the WHA also led the European exodus into North America for the most part.

It would have happened anyways since Salming and Hammarstrong were with the Leafs in 74 but I think the WHA accelerated the way the NHL probably would have transformed anyways.

Edit: Tardif was 2nd in PPG for 30-31 year olds in the 3 year period between 79-81 so it's a bit unfair to say that he wasn't a star in the NHL


http://www.hockey-reference.com/play...rder_by=points

Robbie Ftorek scored at pretty close to a PPG rate for 3 seasons aged 28-30 in the NHL while Mike "Shaky" Walton also scored at a PPG rate aged 31-33 for a pretty weak Vancouver Canuck team.

Sure their scoring exploits were a bit of a drop off from their WHA heights but they are hardly the best 3 examples to use IMO given their ages and circumstances in their returns to the NHL.
Well just some food for thought:
Mike Walton NHL stats - 448 points in 588 games
WHA stats - 281 points in 211 games

Led the WHA in goals and points in 1974.
The NHL leader in goals and points in 1974 was Phil Esposito, I know I can see the difference

Walton never had more than 30 goals in an NHL season. Never had more than 66 points either. He jumped from 47 points in the NHL in 1973 to 117 in the WHA in 1974. I would have tested him for steroids if I didn't already know that the pool of talent in the WHA was much, much thinner.

Robbie Ftorek NHL stats - 227 points in 334 games
WHA stats - 523 points in 373 games

Had 4 100 point seasons in the WHA. Once had a 73 point season in the NHL. Then 51. Then 41.

But if you don't want to believe me check this out, scored three times as many goals in the WHA as he did in the NHL in pretty much the same number of games. Keep in mind, he was 27 when he returned to the NHL, right in what should have been his prime.

Assist leader in the WHA in 1979 - Ftorek
Assist leader in the NHL in 1979 - Trottier

Who was better?

Marc Tardif NHL leader in goals and points in 1978
Guy Lafleur NHL leader in goals and points in 1978

Tardif career high 154 points in WHA. Followed by 149 and 109.
Tardif career high 70 points in the NHL, followed by 68 and 54.

Yes, between the ages of 24-30 he was in the WHA but should there really be that much of a spike for most of your prime years?

Not to mention, God bless Bobby Hull and such, but in his last NHL season prior to the WHA he had 50 goals and 93 points which was good for 6th in the NHL. He was 33 years old and like anyone else he was starting to decline a tad. In the WHA he scored 77 goals and 142 points one year. A little bit of a discrepancy?

In 1978 in the WHA he had 117 points. Two years later back in the NHL, his last season, he had 17 points in 27 games, good for maybe 50 points if he's healthy.

Like I said before, the WHA did some nice things OFF the ice for the game. We don't have the Oilers dynasty without the WHA. But it was a far inferior league to the NHL. Case in point, the 1976 Canada Cup. Everyone selected on Team Canada was from the NHL except for Hull and Tardif - who was cut. If that doesn't tell you where the talent was distributed in the hockey world, nothing will

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12-29-2011, 04:44 PM
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Case in point, the 1976 Canada Cup. Everyone selected on Team Canada was from the NHL except for Hull and Tardif - who was cut. If that doesn't tell you where the talent was distributed in the hockey world, nothing will
Somebody went a little extreme to someones post.

Just FYI...

Marc Tardif was not cur from the team. He turned down the invitation from lingering effects after being jumped by Rick Jodzio during the 1976 WHA playoffs and suffered a concussion.

Paul Shmyr was the WHA player who was cut.

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12-29-2011, 04:54 PM
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Yes indeedy, and Im sure it wouldve'. Way back in 63 Stafford Smythe & Harold Ballard approached Vancouver City Council, asking for the deed to some land gratis in order to build an arena, as the new guard lead by Jennings in NY kept pressing for Expansion. Smythe & Ballard were none too nice about asking, Vancouver telling them no, Smythe then vowing that as long as he lived, Vancouver would never get a team. We know how that turned out. Not well for Stafford who died facing jail time. Ten years later it took a Boycott of Molsons products to force acceptance of the Canadian WHA refugee's, and even then, the punitive nature of Amalgamation all but sealed the fates of Winnipeg & Quebec.



Thats for sure. All bark & no bite. That dog dont hunt & I dont think it ever really will, despite the involvement of several multi-billionaire Russian Oligarchs, with Putin making it clear to them btw that it "wouldnt be wise" for them to invest in the NHL or hockey in North America.
As I understood it, it was the connections Ferguson had with Serge Savard and Molsons which got Winnipeg endorsed by the Molsons brewery, as they became a major sponsor of the Jets, and thus gave us an ally to defend our entry into the NHL. Could you explain this premise?

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