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.
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.
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.
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.
|New England Whalers||80||37||34||9||83||298||287||1090|
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.
Bolded numbers indicate season leaders
GP = Games played; G = Goals; A = Assists; Pts = Points; PIM = Penalty minutes
|Real Cloutier||Quebec Nordiques||77||75||54||129||48|
|Robbie Ftorek||Cincinnati Stingers||80||39||77||116||87|
|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|
Bolded numbers indicate season leaders
|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|
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
Quarter-finals - New England Whalers 2, Cincinnati Stingers 1
|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
|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
|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
|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|
|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|
|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|
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.
1977–78 WHA season
|WHA seasons||Succeeded by|
1979–80 NHL season1
|1978–79 WHA season by team|
|Birmingham • Cincinnati • Edmonton • Indianapolis • New England • Quebec • Winnipeg|
|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).|
- McLelland and Stewart, p. 241.