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The 1972–73 WHA season was the first regular season of the World Hockey Association (WHA). Twelve teams played 78 games each. The league was officially incorporated in June of 1971 by Garry L. Davidson and Dennis A. Murphy and promised to ice twelve teams in various markets around Canada and the United States. The league championship trophy, the Avco World Trophy, was donated by AVCO Financial Services Corporation along with $500,000.

The New England Whalers defeated the Winnipeg Jets 4 games to 1 in the Finals to win the first Avco World Trophy.

Regular Season[edit | edit source]

Ron Anderson, Bobby Hull, Larry Mavety, December 22, 1972.

The first WHA game, on 12 October, 1972, was won by the Alberta Oilers 7-4 over the Ottawa Nationals.

Bobby Hull missed the first 14 games of the regular season after the Chicago Black Hawks filed a restraining order against Hull and the Winnipeg Jets in November 1972. Judge A. Leon Higginbotham Jr. of the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia placed an injunction against the NHL, preventing it from enforcing the reserve clause and freeing all players who had restraining orders against them, including Hull, to play with their WHA clubs. The decision effectively ended the NHL's monopoly on major league professional hockey talent.

The Cleveland Crusaders played at the Cleveland Arena which had become decrepit and had chicken wire instead of Plexiglas on top of the boards. The area was notorious for the high level of crime. Several Crusaders players experienced theft of their cars and mugging outside the arena.[1]

The Chicago Cougars played in the International Amphitheatre while awaiting completion of Rosemont Horizon Arena whic was not finished until 1980. The 9,000 seat Amphitheatre was located next to cattle stockyards and abattoirs, filling the arena with a powerful stench.[2]

Alton White and Gary Jarrett in 1972-73 action.

Alton White of the Los Angeles Sharks became the first black player to score a Hat-trick in a major league professional game. He accomplished the feat on March 1, 1973 against the Minnesota Fighting Saints in an 4-1 victory. He also was the first black player to score 20 goals in a major professional season.

On March 28, 1973, Bobby Hull returned to Chicago to face the Cougars, having scored 49 goals. Hull potted his 50th of the season and when the game went into overtime, won it for the Jets with his 51st.

Gord Labossiere scores, December 19, 1972.

The WHA was split into two divisions, the Eastern Division and the Western Division. Each division sported 6 teams. The New England Whalers led the Eastern Division and had the best record in the league. The other playoff qualifiers in the East were Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Ottawa. The Winnipeg Jets led the Western Division and had the second best record in the league. Behind Winnipeg, the West had a thrilling race with 4 teams fighting for three playoff spots, trading 2nd through 5th place all season. Houston won 3 of its last 4 games to finish 2nd with 82 points. With 2 games remaining, Minnesota had 79 points, Alberta had 77, and Los Angeles had 76. Los Angeles won their last two games to finish 3rd, while Minnesota and Alberta both lost their next to last game of the season, setting up a final game showdown in Minnesota against each other with Minnesota 2 points ahead of Alberta. Alberta won the game 5-3, so both teams finished with identical records.

The Jets and Aeros in 1972-73 season action.

The league now faced a dilemma. The first standings tiebreaker was number of wins, and the teams both had 38. The second tiebreaker was head to head record and the teams split their 8 games with 4 wins apiece. The league by-laws did not specify further tiebreakers. In the NHL, the next two tie breakers were goal differential and goals scored, both with favored Alberta. But because the WHA by-laws did not specify additional tiebreakers, the league Board of Governors met to decide how to break the tie. They ultimately decided on a 1 game playoff at a neutral site. The Alberta Oilers missed the playoffs, despite having a superior goal-differential to the Minnesota Fighting Saints, because they lost the neutral-site, tie-breaking game against the Saints in Calgary by a score of 4-2.

Final Standings[edit | edit source]

Eastern Division
GP W L T GF GA PIM Pts
New England Whalers 78 46 30 2 318 263 858 94
Cleveland Crusaders 78 43 32 3 287 239 1095 89
Philadelphia Blazers 78 38 40 0 288 305 1260 76
Ottawa Nationals 78 35 39 4 279 301 1067 74
Quebec Nordiques 78 33 40 5 276 313 1354 71
New York Raiders 78 33 43 2 303 334 900 68

Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, GF = Goals For, GA = Goals Against, PIM = Penalties Minutes, Pts = Points
Teams that qualified for the playoffs are highlighted in bold.

Western Division
GP W L T GF GA PIM Pts
Winnipeg Jets 78 43 31 4 285 249 757 90
Houston Aeros 78 39 35 4 284 269 1363 82
Los Angeles Sharks 78 37 35 6 259 250 1477 80
Minnesota Fighting Saints 78 38 37 3 250 269 843 79
Alberta Oilers 78 38 37 3 269 256 1134 79
Chicago Cougars 78 26 50 2 245 295 811 54

Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, GF = Goals For, GA = Goals Against, PIM = Penalties Minutes, Pts = Points
Teams that qualified for the playoffs are highlighted in bold.


Scoring Leaders[edit | edit source]

Player Team Goals Assists Points
André Lacroix Philadelphia Blazers 50 74 124
Ron Ward New York Raiders 51 67 118
Danny Lawson Philadelphia Blazers 61 45 106
Bobby Hull Winnipeg Jets 51 52 103
Norm Beaudin Winnipeg Jets 38 65 103
Tom Webster New England Whalers 53 50 103
Chris Bordeleau Winnipeg Jets 47 54 101
Terry Caffery New England Whalers 39 61 100
Gord Labossiere Houston Aeros 36 60 96
Wayne Carleton Ottawa Nationals 42 49 91

Leading Goaltenders[edit | edit source]

Bolded numbers indicate season leaders

GP = Games played; Min = Minutes played; W = Wins; L = Losses; T = Ties, GA = Goals against; GA = Goals against; SO = Shutouts; SV% = Save percentage; GAA = Goals against average

Spieler Team GP Min W L T GA SO SV% GAA
Gerry Cheevers Cleveland Crusaders 52 3144 32 20 2 149 5 91.2 2.84
Joe Daley Winnipeg Jets 29 1718 17 10 1 83 2 89.3 2.90
Russ Gillow Los Angeles Sharks 38 1892 17 13 2 96 2 88.7 2.91
Wayne Rutledge Houston Aeros 36 2163 20 14 2 110 0 90.7 3.05
Jack Norris Alberta Oilers 64 3702 28 37 3 189 1 90.2 3.06

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All-Star Game[edit | edit source]

On January 6, 1973 at Quebec City, a team comprised of the Eastern Division All-Stars defeated the Western Division All-Stars 6-2 before a crowd of 5,435 spectators. Wayne Carleton of the Ottawa Nationals was the game's MVP.

Playoff Summary[edit | edit source]

Compared to the thrilling race in the West Division, the playoffs were unexciting in that the team with the better record won every series and only one series went beyond 5 games. That was the West Semi-final between Houston and Los Angeles. After getting blown out in game one in Houston by a score of 7-2, Los Angeles rallied to win game two 4-2 and even the series. The Sharks then won a thrilling game three in L.A. 3-2. Game 4 was the turning point of the series. The teams headed into overtime tied at 2; a Houston goal would even the series while a Los Angeles goal would give the Sharks a commanding 3-1 series lead. The Aeros scored in overtime to even the series, then won game 5 in Houston, 6-3. Game six in L.A. was another thriller, with Houston scoring late to win the game 3-2 and win the series.

Avco World Trophy Playoffs[edit | edit source]

  Quarter-finals Semi-finals Finals
                           
  E1  New England Whalers 4  
E4  Ottawa Nationals 1  
  E1  New England Whalers 4  
Eastern Division
  E2  Cleveland Crusaders 1  
E2  Cleveland Crusaders 4
  E3  Philadelphia Blazers 0  
    E1  New England Whalers 4
  W1  Winnipeg Jets 1
  W1  Winnipeg Jets 4  
W4  Minnesota Fighting Saints 1  
W1  Winnipeg Jets 4
Western Division
  W2  Houston Aeros 0  
W2  Houston Aeros 4
  W3  Los Angeles Sharks 2  

Avco World Trophy Finals[edit | edit source]

Larry Pleau scores the winning goal, Game 5 of the 1973 Avco World Trophy Finals, May 6, 1973.

New England Whalers defeated the Winnipeg Jets, 4 games to 1. The Whalers defeated the Jets 9 to 6 in the deciding game, with Larry Pleau scoring a Hat trick.

As the Avco World Trophy had not been created in time for the 1973 Finals, a trophy was bought from a Boston sporting goods store as a substitute.

# Date Visitor Score Home Record
1 April 29 Winnipeg Jets 2–7 New England Whalers 0–1
2 May 2 New England Whalers 7–4 Winnipeg Jets 0–2
3 May 3 New England Whalers 3–4 Winnipeg Jets 1–2
4 May 5 Winnipeg Jets 2–4 New England Whalers 1–3
5 May 6 Winnipeg Jets 6–9 New England Whalers 1–4

WHA Awards[edit | edit source]

Avco World Trophy: New England Whalers
Gary L. Davidson Award (MVP): Bobby Hull, Winnipeg Jets
Bill Hunter Trophy (Scoring Leader): Andre Lacroix, Philadelphia Blazers
Lou Kaplan Trophy (Rookie of the Year): Terry Caffery, New England Whalers
Ben Hatskin Trophy (Best Goaltender): Gerry Cheevers, Cleveland Crusaders
Dennis A. Murphy Trophy (Best Defenseman): J. C. Tremblay, Quebec Nordiques
Paul Deneau Trophy (Most Gentlemenly): Ted Hampson, Minnesota Fighting Saints
Howard Baldwin Trophy (Coach of the Year): Jack Kelley, New England Whalers

All-Star Teams[edit | edit source]

First Team   Position   Second Team
Gerry Cheevers, Cleveland Crusaders G Bernie Parent, Philadelphia Blazers
J. C. Tremblay, Quebec Nordiques D Paul Shmyr, Cleveland Crusaders
Jim Dorey, New England Whalers D Larry Hornung, Winnipeg Jets
Andre Lacroix, Philadelphia Blazers C Ron Ward, New York Raiders
Bobby Hull, Winnipeg Jets LW Gary Jarrett, Cleveland Crusaders
Danny Lawson, Philadelphia Blazers RW Tom Webster, New England Whalers

Debuts[edit | edit source]

The following is a list of players of note who played their first major professional game in 1972–73 (listed with their first team, asterisk(*) marks debut in playoffs):

Last Game[edit | edit source]

The following is a list of players of note who played their final major professional game in 1972–73:

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Video[edit | edit source]

48 minutes of game action from the October 27, 1972 Chicago Cougars-Winnipeg Jets match.

Nearly an hour of game action from the December 17, 1972 Chicago Cougars-Minnesota Fighting Saints match.

Nearly 17 minutes of game action from the April 8, 1973 Quarter-finals Game 2 New England Whalers-Ottawa Nationals.

A 21 minute review of the inaugural WHA season with highlights and interviews.

A 37 minute dealing with the creation of the WHA.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. The Rebel League, Ed Willis, McClelland & Stewart Ltd, 1994, p.110
  2. The Rebel League, Ed Willis, McClelland & Stewart Ltd, 1994, p.114
Preceded by
-
WHA seasons Succeeded by
1973-74 WHA season
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