1979-May20-Jets win Avco Trophy.jpg

The 1978–79 WHA season was the 7th and final season of the World Hockey Association (WHA). Prior to the start of the season, the Houston Aeros folded leaving seven teams to start the season. Only six finished however, as the Indianapolis Racers folded after 25 games on the December 15, 1978. The remaining six teams each played 80 games, including one game each per team against a Soviet All-Star squad and the Czechoslovakia National team, the second consecutive year for this arrangement. The Soviet team won four of their six games and tied another; the Czech team only won once and tied once against four losses. In addition, to allow each regular team to play 80 games, the Edmonton Oilers played the Finnish National team (with future Oiler Jari Kurri) once at home, winning by a score of 8-4.

The Winnipeg Jets and defeated the Edmonton Oilers 4 games to 2 in the Finals to win their 3rd Avco World Trophy.

After the end of the season, an agreement was reached whereby four of the teams, the Edmonton Oilers, Quebec Nordiques, Winnipeg Jets and New England Whalers were admitted to the National Hockey League (NHL) as expansion teams for the 1979–80 NHL season, and the WHA ceased operations. The Cincinnati and Birmingham franchises were paid to disband.

Regular Season[edit | edit source]

Wayne Gretzky scores his last WHA regular season goal, April 18, 1979.

The dying WHA went to almost any length to try and stay afloat. The NHL had rules regarding the age of players that could play while the WHA didn't. Nelson Skalbania, the owner of Indianapolis Racers, signed the 17 year old future super-star, Wayne Gretzky to, at that time, a whopping personal contract worth between 1.125 and 1.75 million dollars over 4 to 7 years. Skalbania, knowing that the WHA was fading, felt owning the young star was more valuable than owning a WHA team. Eight games into the season, though, Skalbania needed cash and liquidated his greatest asset to his old friend and former partner, Peter Pocklington, owner of the Edmonton Oilers. Pocklington purchased Gretzky and two other Indianapolis players, goaltender Eddie Mio and forward Peter Driscoll paying $700,000 for the contracts of the three players, although the announced price was actually $850,000. On Gretzky's 18th birthday, (January 26, 1979), Pocklington signed him to a 21 year personal services contract worth between 4 and 5 million dollars, the longest in hockey history. Gretzky captured the Lou Kaplan Trophy for rookie of the year, finish third in league scoring, and help the Oilers to first overall in the league.

Playoff Format[edit | edit source]

The top five teams in the league qualified for the playoffs. The 4th and 5th place teams started in a best-of-three Quarter-final series, while the top three finishers received byes into the Semi-finals. In the Semi-finals, the 1st place team played the 4th/5th winner, while 2nd place played 3rd place. Both Semi-finals series were best-of-seven. Since the 2nd and 3rd place teams knew they'd be playing each other in the Semi-finals, they started their series while the 4th/5th Quarter-finals was occurring. The Finals, like the Semi-finals, was best four-out-of-seven games.

Final Standings[edit | edit source]

WHA Team GP W L T Pts GF GA PIM
Edmonton Oilers 80 48 30 2 98 340 266 1220
Quebec Nordiques 80 41 34 5 87 288 271 1399
Winnipeg Jets 80 39 35 6 84 307 306 1342
New England Whalers 80 37 34 9 83 298 287 1090
Cincinnati Stingers 80 33 41 6 72 274 284 1651
Birmingham Bulls 80 32 42 6 70 286 311 1661
xIndianapolis Racers 25 5 18 2 12 78 130 557
#Soviet All-Stars 6 4 1 1 9 27 20 77
#Czechoslovakia 6 1 4 1 3 14 33 107
#Finland 1 0 1 0 0 4 8 2

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


Scoring Leaders[edit | edit source]

Bolded numbers indicate season leaders

GP = Games played; G = Goals; A = Assists; Pts = Points; PIM = Penalty minutes

Player Team GP G A Pts PIM
Real Cloutier Quebec Nordiques 77 75 54 129 48
Robbie Ftorek Cincinnati Stingers 80 39 77 116 87
Wayne Gretzky Indianapolis/Edmonton 80 46 64 110 19
Mark Howe New England Whalers 77 42 65 107 32
Kent Nilsson Winnipeg Jets 78 39 68 107 8
Morris Lukowich Winnipeg Jets 80 65 34 99 119
Marc Tardif Quebec Nordiques 74 41 55 96 98
André Lacroix New England Whalers 78 32 56 88 34
Peter Sullivan Winnipeg Jets 80 46 40 86 24
Terry Ruskowski Winnipeg Jets 75 20 66 86 211

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

Player Team GP Min W L T GA SO SV% GAA
Dave Dryden Edmonton Oilers 63 3531 41 17 2 170 3 89.0 2.89
Richard Brodeur Quebec Nordiques 42 2433 25 13 3 126 3 90.1 3.11
Jim Corsi Quebec Nordiques 40 2291 16 20 1 126 3 89.9 3.30
Al Smith New England Whalers 40 2396 17 17 5 132 1 88.3 3.31
Michel Dion Cincinnati Stingers 30 1681 10 14 2 93 0 87.3 3.32

All-Star Game[edit | edit source]

WHA All-Star Team.

Wayne Gretzky appeared in the 1979 WHA All-Star Game. The format of the game was a three game series between the WHA All-Stars against Dynamo Moscow at Edmonton's Northlands Coliseum. The WHA All-Stars were coached by Jacques Demers and Demers asked Gordie Howe if it was okay to put him on a line with Wayne Gretzky and his son Mark Howe. In the first game, the line scored seven points, as the WHA All-Star won by a score of 4-2. In the second game, Gretzky and Mark Howe each scored a goal and Gordie Howe picked up an assist as the WHA won 4-2. The line did not score in the final game but the WHA won by a score of 4-3.

Avco World Trophy Playoffs[edit | edit source]

Quarter-finals - New England Whalers 2, Cincinnati Stingers 1[edit | edit source]

# Date Visitor Score Home Record
1 April 21 Cincinnati Stingers 3–5 New England Whalers 0–1
2 April 22 New England Whalers 3–6 Cincinnati Stingers 1–1
3 April 24 New England Whalers 2–1 Cincinnati Stingers 2–1

Semi-finals - Winnipeg Jets 4, Quebec Nordiques 0[edit | edit source]

# Date Visitor Score Home Record
1 April 23 Winnipeg Jets 6–3 Quebec Nordiques 1–0
2 April 25 Winnipeg Jets 9–2 Quebec Nordiques 2–0
3 April 27 Quebec Nordiques 5–9 Winnipeg Jets 0–3
4 April 29 Quebec Nordiques 2–6 Winnipeg Jets 0–4

Semi-finals - Edmonton Oilers 4, New England Whalers 3[edit | edit source]

# Date Visitor Score Home Record
1 April 26 New England Whalers 2–6 Edmonton Oilers 0–1
2 April 27 New England Whalers 5–9 Edmonton Oilers 0–2
3 April 29 Edmonton Oilers 1–4 New England Whalers 2–1
4 May 1 Edmonton Oilers 4–5 New England Whalers 2–2
5 May 3 New England Whalers 2–5 Edmonton Oilers 2–3
6 May 6 Edmonton Oilers 4–8 New England Whalers 3–3
7 May 8 New England Whalers 3–6 Edmonton Oilers 3–4

Avco World Cup Finals - Winnipeg Jets 4, Edmonton Oilers 2[edit | edit source]

The Oilers' Dave Semenko scored late in the third period of the deciding game, to record the last goal in the history of the WHA.[1] The goal was given up by the Winnipeg Jets Gary Smith.

# Date Visitor Score Home Record
1 May 11 Winnipeg Jets 3–1 Edmonton Oilers 1–0
2 May 13 Winnipeg Jets 3–2 Edmonton Oilers 2–0
3 May 15 Edmonton Oilers 8–3 Winnipeg Jets 1–2
4 May 16 Edmonton Oilers 2–3 Winnipeg Jets 1–3
5 May 18 Winnipeg Jets 2–10 Edmonton Oilers 3–2
6 May 20 Edmonton Oilers 3–7 Winnipeg Jets 2–4

WHA Awards[edit | edit source]

Avco World Trophy: Winnipeg Jets
Gordie Howe Trophy (MVP): Dave Dryden, Edmonton Oilers
Bill Hunter Trophy (Scoring Leader): Real Cloutier, Quebec Nordiques
Lou Kaplan Trophy (Rookie of the Year): Wayne Gretzky, Edmonton Oilers
Ben Hatskin Trophy (Best Goaltender): Dave Dryden, Edmonton Oilers
Dennis A. Murphy Trophy (Best Defenseman): Rick Ley, New England Whalers
Paul Deneau Trophy (Most Gentlemenly): Kent Nilsson, Winnipeg Jets
Robert Schmertz Memorial Trophy (Coach of the Year): John Brophy, Birmingham Bulls
WHA Playoff MVP: Rich Preston, Winnipeg Jets

All-Star Teams[edit | edit source]

Position First Team Second Team
Centre Robbie Ftorek, Cincinnati Wayne Gretzky, Edmonton
Right Wing Real Cloutier, Quebec Blair MacDonald, Edmonton
Left Wing Mark Howe, New England Morris Lukowich, Winnipeg Jets
Defence Rick Ley, New England Dave Langevin, Edmonton
Defence Rob Ramage, Birmingham Paul Shmyr, Edmonton
Goaltender Dave Dryden, Edmonton Richard Brodeur, Quebec

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Video[edit | edit source]

Wayne Gretzky scores the first two goals of his professional career, October 20, 1978.

Whalers-Jet game from January 30, 1979.

Game 6 of the 1979 Avco World Trophy Finals, last game in WHA history, May 20, 1979.

References[edit | edit source]

Preceded by
1977–78 WHA season
WHA seasons Succeeded by
1979–80 NHL season1

1 Four of the WHA teams were admitted to the NHL as expansion franchises — the New England/Hartford Whalers, Quebec Nordiques, Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets.

This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article was at 1978-79 WHA Season. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with Ice Hockey Wiki, the text of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License 3.0 (Unported) (CC-BY-SA).


  1. McLelland and Stewart, p. 241.
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