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Old
07-07-2012, 10:49 PM
  #1
Shootmaster_44
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WHA Questions

I know there were a many players who lit up the scoresheet that played in the WHA. Seems like a good portion of them were quality NHL players (either before or after their WHA stint). But I'm sure there were some stars of the WHA that flopped in the NHL. What happened that caused their flop?

On this note, since I wasn't alive during the WHA's time, what was the level of play? I know history looks at them as another major league. But if an equivalent league existed today, what would their equivalent be? Would most teams be the lower end NHL teams or would it be more equivalent to the top end AHL teams or KHL teams? I assume it was essentially the mid-90s IHL with a few more NHL stars playing in it. Would this be a correct assumption?

Other than the first year where players like Bobby Hull and Gerry Cheevers jumped to the WHA, was there fights over players in later years? I know draft choices were hotly contested, but for top free agents (such as it was in that era) were they pursued by both leagues or did players tend lean toward the NHL and not seriously consider WHA offers?

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07-07-2012, 11:05 PM
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Big Phil
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I've gotten in debates before about this. I was not a fan of the WHA. It came and went so fast. For a couple seasons it may have dilluted some NHL talent. But the players started coming back. No one wanted to win the Avco Cup, they wanted the Stanley Cup. How do I know? Bobby Smith took some heat when he got drafted for saying that. 1972 is when the money really started coming to the NHL guys. The main factor of jumping to the WHA all of the sudden was irrelevant and it looked weak next to the NHL.

The WHA made stars of Robbie Ftorek, Mike Walton and the stats of Hull and J.C. Tremblay jumped further than they ever should have. Notably, Ulf Nilsson and Anders Hedberg racked up some scary point totals in the WHA, but jumped to the NHL in their prime years and never had more than 78 points.

One guy who has been hotly debated is Marc Tardif. Some people think he would have been a HHOFer had he not jumped to the WHA. Personally, I think he would have shown a little more evidence that he was great in the NHL since he was 24 when he jumped to the WHA. But there wasn't anything that stood out. He was invited to the Canada Cup 1976 training camp, but got cut, so I will admit he wasn't all that bad.

To answer your question, the WHA wouldn't have been any better than the KHL is today. A star sprinkled around, but mostly guys who are and were afterthoughts in the NHL

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07-08-2012, 08:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Big Phil View Post
One guy who has been hotly debated is Marc Tardif. Some people think he would have been a HHOFer had he not jumped to the WHA. Personally, I think he would have shown a little more evidence that he was great in the NHL since he was 24 when he jumped to the WHA. But there wasn't anything that stood out. He was invited to the Canada Cup 1976 training camp, but got cut, so I will admit he wasn't all that bad.
Marc Tardiff declined the invitation due to injury received in the WHA playoffs after being jumped by Rick Jodzio; he was not cut from the team. Tardiff was carried off on a stretcher and had a concussion from the incident.

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07-08-2012, 08:40 AM
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Dennis Bonvie
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I've gotten in debates before about this. I was not a fan of the WHA. It came and went so fast. For a couple seasons it may have dilluted some NHL talent. But the players started coming back. No one wanted to win the Avco Cup, they wanted the Stanley Cup. How do I know? Bobby Smith took some heat when he got drafted for saying that. 1972 is when the money really started coming to the NHL guys. The main factor of jumping to the WHA all of the sudden was irrelevant and it looked weak next to the NHL.

The WHA made stars of Robbie Ftorek, Mike Walton and the stats of Hull and J.C. Tremblay jumped further than they ever should have. Notably, Ulf Nilsson and Anders Hedberg racked up some scary point totals in the WHA, but jumped to the NHL in their prime years and never had more than 78 points.

One guy who has been hotly debated is Marc Tardif. Some people think he would have been a HHOFer had he not jumped to the WHA. Personally, I think he would have shown a little more evidence that he was great in the NHL since he was 24 when he jumped to the WHA. But there wasn't anything that stood out. He was invited to the Canada Cup 1976 training camp, but got cut, so I will admit he wasn't all that bad.

To answer your question, the WHA wouldn't have been any better than the KHL is today. A star sprinkled around, but mostly guys who are and were afterthoughts in the NHL
Not playing with Bobby Hull as their left winger anymore may have had an effect. Not to mention the hype they got in NY compared to playing in Winnipeg.

But then there was Mike Rogers, who's top WHA season was 83 points in five seasons. Went to the NHL and scored over 100 points 3 years in a row.

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07-08-2012, 09:04 AM
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But then there was Mike Rogers, who's top WHA season was 83 points in five seasons. Went to the NHL and scored over 100 points 3 years in a row.
kent nilsson had two 107 point seasons in the wha, then two years later had a 131 point season in the nhl

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07-08-2012, 09:04 AM
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But then there was Mike Rogers, who's top WHA season was 83 points in five seasons. Went to the NHL and scored over 100 points 3 years in a row.
As well as his winger for 2 of those years in Blaine Stoughton who tied for NHL lead in Goals in 1979-80 and had the 4th highest Goal total in the NHL form 1979-80 to 1982-83 at 196 behing the HOFers Gretzky, Bossy & Dionne.

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07-08-2012, 09:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Big Phil View Post
I've gotten in debates before about this. I was not a fan of the WHA. It came and went so fast. For a couple seasons it may have dilluted some NHL talent. But the players started coming back. No one wanted to win the Avco Cup, they wanted the Stanley Cup. How do I know? Bobby Smith took some heat when he got drafted for saying that. 1972 is when the money really started coming to the NHL guys. The main factor of jumping to the WHA all of the sudden was irrelevant and it looked weak next to the NHL.

The WHA made stars of Robbie Ftorek, Mike Walton and the stats of Hull and J.C. Tremblay jumped further than they ever should have. Notably, Ulf Nilsson and Anders Hedberg racked up some scary point totals in the WHA, but jumped to the NHL in their prime years and never had more than 78 points.

One guy who has been hotly debated is Marc Tardif. Some people think he would have been a HHOFer had he not jumped to the WHA. Personally, I think he would have shown a little more evidence that he was great in the NHL since he was 24 when he jumped to the WHA. But there wasn't anything that stood out. He was invited to the Canada Cup 1976 training camp, but got cut, so I will admit he wasn't all that bad.

To answer your question, the WHA wouldn't have been any better than the KHL is today. A star sprinkled around, but mostly guys who are and were afterthoughts in the NHL
The WHA was much better than KHL is today. Most of the players who went there were either in their prime years in the WHA and return to the NHL post-prime, battled injuries when they returned or were very young when they joined the league (Gratzky, Howe, Hedberg, Nilsson).

It was a more offensive league so the offensive are obviously boosted a bit. Not to mention that most of the stars were kept by their current WHA teams in the merger where NHL robbed the teams of all talent and made them AHL quality.

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07-09-2012, 01:07 AM
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Most curious is the case of Andre Lacroix. An average player for the Flyers became the WHA's all-time leading points man, mostly playing for mediocre teams like San Diego and New York.

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07-09-2012, 03:56 PM
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The best thing the WHA ever did was provide permission/force NHL owners to give NHL players a bigger piece of the pie.

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07-09-2012, 05:01 PM
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I think a lot of the guys mentioned in this thread spent the majority of their prime in the WHA...

One name that hasn't been mentioned is Real Cloutier.

He was done by 28....

The guy had 911 points in 686 games combined between the NHL and WHA.... Including 344 points in 317 NHL games...

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07-09-2012, 05:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Hobnobs View Post
The WHA was much better than KHL is today. Most of the players who went there were either in their prime years in the WHA and return to the NHL post-prime, battled injuries when they returned or were very young when they joined the league (Gratzky, Howe, Hedberg, Nilsson).

It was a more offensive league so the offensive are obviously boosted a bit. Not to mention that most of the stars were kept by their current WHA teams in the merger where NHL robbed the teams of all talent and made them AHL quality.
I wouldn't say NHL teams robbed WHA teams of quality players. NHL teams owned their NHL rights...

I suppose one could say that the WHA robbed the NHL out of talent. Two of the games biggest stars jumped ship - Bobby Hull and Gordie Howe. Not to mention guys like Gerry Cheevers, Bernie Parent or Derek Sanderson just to name a few more....

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07-09-2012, 05:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Hawksfan2828 View Post
I wouldn't say NHL teams robbed WHA teams of quality players. NHL teams owned their NHL rights...

I suppose one could say that the WHA robbed the NHL out of talent. Two of the games biggest stars jumped ship - Bobby Hull and Gordie Howe. Not to mention guys like Gerry Cheevers, Bernie Parent or Derek Sanderson just to name a few more....
Well, rights to players are sad (in that context). Anyway NHL just hurt themsleves creating more disparity in the league. WHA didnt rob the NHL at all. They just started offering NHL players real salary. Its actually not WHAs fault that players in the NHL were underpayed and NHL in their arrogance thought that owning for life was going to continue.

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07-09-2012, 05:31 PM
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Real Cloutier

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hawksfan2828 View Post
I think a lot of the guys mentioned in this thread spent the majority of their prime in the WHA...

One name that hasn't been mentioned is Real Cloutier.

He was done by 28....

The guy had 911 points in 686 games combined between the NHL and WHA.... Including 344 points in 317 NHL games...
Never recovered from a broken ankle suffered during a summer softball game.

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07-09-2012, 05:38 PM
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Never recovered from a broken ankle suffered during a summer softball game.
Talk about a curve ball thrown at you in life (no pun intended of course)...

Real was obviously a productive player in the NHL and the WHA...

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07-09-2012, 05:52 PM
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Well, rights to players are sad (in that context). Anyway NHL just hurt themsleves creating more disparity in the league. WHA didnt rob the NHL at all. They just started offering NHL players real salary. Its actually not WHAs fault that players in the NHL were underpayed and NHL in their arrogance thought that owning for life was going to continue.
The NHL teams they left from to go to the WHA held their rights.... Radulov is a perfect example of that happening today...

I don't know if players were "underpaid" - When the Blues were sold in the mid-80's I think the franchise was sold for like $2,000,000.

You could probably get good seats back in the 70's (glass seats) for 10 bucks, as opposed to todays 250-300 for glass seats...

Back then revenue was a lot less....

It would be a good study to determine based on team revenue (and other economic factors) what players then would make today given their salaries then and what particular teams could afford as far as a payroll given their revenue...

I suppose it would be difficult to find franchise revenue data from the 70's tho....

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07-09-2012, 05:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Hawksfan2828 View Post
The NHL teams they left from to go to the WHA held their rights.... Radulov is a perfect example of that happening today...

I don't know if players were "underpaid" - When the Blues were sold in the mid-80's I think the franchise was sold for like $2,000,000.

You could probably get good seats back in the 70's (glass seats) for 10 bucks, as opposed to todays 250-300 for glass seats...

Back then revenue was a lot less....

It would be a good study to determine based on team revenue (and other economic factors) what players then would make today given their salaries then and what particular teams could afford as far as a payroll given their revenue...

I suppose it would be difficult to find franchise revenue data from the 70's tho....
Radulov was a RFA in todays NHL. Its different to hold the rights to your prospects but what about the older players? I mean hold someones rights when they are 35+? Obnoxious.

Anyways my point was that production went down for alot of WHA star players because their teams were stripped.

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07-09-2012, 06:17 PM
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Radulov was a RFA in todays NHL. Its different to hold the rights to your prospects but what about the older players? I mean hold someones rights when they are 35+? Obnoxious.

Anyways my point was that production went down for alot of WHA star players because their teams were stripped.
But back then they were all UFA's.... Besides, if Radulov came back at 35 he still would have been under contract to Nashville - as a RFA none the less....

The older players were similar to the Radulov situation.

Besides, the WHA drafted a players rights for their own league via draft - when the WHA merged with the NHL those players rights went right back to the NHL team....

When the WHA teams drafted from NHL teams they were basically saying "if this guy chooses to come to the WHA we have dibs on him."

So the WHA was doing the same thing.... The WHA just got nipped in the bud when they merged with the NHL. I suppose it is one of those what goes around comes around type scenarios.

Besides not all teams were horrible or got "ripped off" - look at Hartford's 1979-80 roster.

Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull, Mike Rodgers, Dave Keon, Blaine Stoughton, Mark Howe and Andre Lacroix just to name a few superstars from the WHA days....

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07-09-2012, 06:29 PM
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But back then they were all UFA's.... Besides, if Radulov came back at 35 he still would have been under contract to Nashville - as a RFA none the less....

The older players were similar to the Radulov situation.

Besides, the WHA drafted a players rights for their own league via draft - when the WHA merged with the NHL those players rights went right back to the NHL team....

When the WHA teams drafted from NHL teams they were basically saying "if this guy chooses to come to the WHA we have dibs on him."

So the WHA was doing the same thing.... The WHA just got nipped in the bud when they merged with the NHL. I suppose it is one of those what goes around comes around type scenarios.

Besides not all teams were horrible or got "ripped off" - look at Hartford's 1979-80 roster.

Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull, Mike Rodgers, Dave Keon, Blaine Stoughton, Mark Howe and Andre Lacroix just to name a few superstars from the WHA days....
Ill give you Mark, Stoughton and Rogers but Howe were 51 years old and were and .5PPG player and Hull played 9 games. Keon as far as I know were above average but far from his glory days (39 years old). Lacroix played 39 games.

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07-09-2012, 06:52 PM
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Ill give you Mark, Stoughton and Rogers but Howe were 51 years old and were and .5PPG player and Hull played 9 games. Keon as far as I know were above average but far from his glory days (39 years old). Lacroix played 39 games.
Yeah but they were pretty productive a couple years earlier...

I suppose my point is the team was pretty stacked.... Kinda reminds me of what the Rangers or Red Wings used to do....

I'm just staying not many "good" players were poached from the WHA to begin with, many were given back to their clubs for picks or compensation...

The Hawks took Quebecs 1st round pick to not reclaim Real Cloutier - at that time Cloutier just got finished with a 75 goal season leading the WHA in goals and points with 129 at the time he was only 22-years-old.

Would you trade a Crosby/Stamkos/Malkin/AO for a top 5 pick?

Of course the Hawks used that pick and drafted Denis Savard (one of the most dynamic players of the 80s)...

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07-10-2012, 12:47 AM
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Most curious is the case of Andre Lacroix. An average player for the Flyers became the WHA's all-time leading points man, mostly playing for mediocre teams like San Diego and New York.
Andre Lacroix is actually a pretty easy one to explain. He's a little guy, I've met him and the 5'8" his h-ref page lists him at might be a bit generous. And he didn't have great speed. But he had good agility and puckhandling skills (think a bit smaller Danny Briere) so in a league like the WHA without the tip-top talent going up against him he could use his skills and dominate. The NHL of the late 60s to early 80s was not a small man's game, so the WHA was a good opportunity for him.

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07-10-2012, 07:20 AM
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The WHA was closer to the AHL than the NHL.

Mostly minor-league calibre players filling the rosters with 4 or 5 middling-type NHL-quality guys filling up the rosters plus the odd genuinely high-quality player (usually only about 5-8 in the entire league at once), with most of those higher-end guys playing forward. Very few defenders of any real quality. Some teams (Winnipeg especially) had more quality than others but it wasn't a very good league.

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07-11-2012, 06:40 PM
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I've gotten in debates before about this. I was not a fan of the WHA. It came and went so fast. For a couple seasons it may have dilluted some NHL talent. But the players started coming back. No one wanted to win the Avco Cup, they wanted the Stanley Cup. How do I know? Bobby Smith took some heat when he got drafted for saying that. 1972 is when the money really started coming to the NHL guys. The main factor of jumping to the WHA all of the sudden was irrelevant and it looked weak next to the NHL.

The WHA made stars of Robbie Ftorek, Mike Walton and the stats of Hull and J.C. Tremblay jumped further than they ever should have. Notably, Ulf Nilsson and Anders Hedberg racked up some scary point totals in the WHA, but jumped to the NHL in their prime years and never had more than 78 points.

One guy who has been hotly debated is Marc Tardif. Some people think he would have been a HHOFer had he not jumped to the WHA. Personally, I think he would have shown a little more evidence that he was great in the NHL since he was 24 when he jumped to the WHA. But there wasn't anything that stood out. He was invited to the Canada Cup 1976 training camp, but got cut, so I will admit he wasn't all that bad.

To answer your question, the WHA wouldn't have been any better than the KHL is today. A star sprinkled around, but mostly guys who are and were afterthoughts in the NHL
Marc Tardif wasn't cut by Team Canada in 1976. He didn't attend camp as he was still recovering from the serious injuries he suffered when he was attacked by Rick Jodzio in the 1976 playoffs.

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07-11-2012, 06:50 PM
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The WHA was closer to the AHL than the NHL.

Mostly minor-league calibre players filling the rosters with 4 or 5 middling-type NHL-quality guys filling up the rosters plus the odd genuinely high-quality player (usually only about 5-8 in the entire league at once), with most of those higher-end guys playing forward. Very few defenders of any real quality. Some teams (Winnipeg especially) had more quality than others but it wasn't a very good league.
With all do respect I'd disagree. The WHA showed in their games with top European teams that they were major league. A notch below some of the NHL perhaps but still good. The top WHA teams, (Winnipeg 1975-76-1978-79, Houston 1973-74-1975-76, Quebec 1976-77) would have all made the playoffs in the NHL and depending on match-up won a round or so. Harry Neale has said that the New England team he left after the 1977-78 season would have been a solid NHL playoff team. The WHA also never had the "dog teams" like Washington, K.C., etc that the NHL had.

The Soviets raved about Winnipeg and how good they were. Winnipeg went to the Izvestia Tournament in December 1976 and didn't embarrass themselves. (They went 1-2-1. They lost to the Soviets 6-4.) Heck Quebec in January 1977 became the only professional team to ever drive Vladislav Tretiak from the nets when they beat the Soviet Nationals 6-1. How many AHL teams could have done that or won a game at Izvestia? Winnipeg beat the Soviet Nationals in January 1977, 5-3. How many NHL teams at that time would have had a prayer of doing that?

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07-11-2012, 08:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Dennis Bonvie View Post
Not playing with Bobby Hull as their left winger anymore may have had an effect. Not to mention the hype they got in NY compared to playing in Winnipeg.

But then there was Mike Rogers, who's top WHA season was 83 points in five seasons. Went to the NHL and scored over 100 points 3 years in a row.
Rogers is more of the exception rather than the rule. Because in general the rule goes the opposite way. Someone who didn't stand out in the NHL stood out in the WHA. Even then, Rogers was hitting his prime as he entered the NHL so that could have helped as well.

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07-11-2012, 08:50 PM
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With all do respect I'd disagree. The WHA showed in their games with top European teams that they were major league. A notch below some of the NHL perhaps but still good. The top WHA teams, (Winnipeg 1975-76-1978-79, Houston 1973-74-1975-76, Quebec 1976-77) would have all made the playoffs in the NHL and depending on match-up won a round or so. Harry Neale has said that the New England team he left after the 1977-78 season would have been a solid NHL playoff team. The WHA also never had the "dog teams" like Washington, K.C., etc that the NHL had.

The Soviets raved about Winnipeg and how good they were. Winnipeg went to the Izvestia Tournament in December 1976 and didn't embarrass themselves. (They went 1-2-1. They lost to the Soviets 6-4.) Heck Quebec in January 1977 became the only professional team to ever drive Vladislav Tretiak from the nets when they beat the Soviet Nationals 6-1. How many AHL teams could have done that or won a game at Izvestia? Winnipeg beat the Soviet Nationals in January 1977, 5-3. How many NHL teams at that time would have had a prayer of doing that?

Craig Wallace
Excellent post.
I think the top teams could compete no problem in the NHL with average NHL teams.

I think the NHL had a big leg up in general in terms of the skill level on the 3rd and 4th lines...the depth/role players, as well as a lot more top end guys.

I know he was only 16/17 in his WHA season, but Gretzky only 1 yr older, put up more points in the NHL than he did in his WHA season.

Messier (same age) had 1 goal in 47 WHA games, but a season later managed 12 goals in the NHL.

Sure some of that is physical maturity, but Wayne and Messier were both just kids in both leagues, and if the WHA was so much more inferior, you'd expect their numbers to reflect that.

Also, the level of toughness in that league was 2nd to none (including the Flyers and Bruins). The Fighting Saints could have won a lot of games by simply intimidating their opposition at a time in the NHL where some teams weren't ready to play that way.

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