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1972–73 WHA season

The 1972–73 WHA season was the first 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 won the first Avco World Trophy.

1972–73 WHA season
LeagueWorld Hockey Association
SportIce hockey
Regular season
Top scorerAndré Lacroix (Philadelphia)
Avco World Trophy
ChampionsNew England Whalers
  Runners-upWinnipeg Jets
WHA seasons


1972 General Player DraftEdit

The WHA's inaugural player draft was held in Anaheim, California on February 12 and 13, 1972. All 12 WHA franchises took part in the draft. There were no drafting constraints, and the WHA teams selected players from all levels of play, including established National Hockey League players, minor leaguers, college, junior players, Europeans, and even retired players.[1] The first player selected in the general draft was United States men's national ice hockey team member Henry Boucha, taken by the Minnesota Fighting Saints (who also selected the Governor of Minnesota, Wendell Anderson, with a late pick). After 70 rounds the Winnipeg Jets selected Soviet premier Alexei Kosygin and then stop participating in the draft, while the other teams continued making selections. This process continued, with teams arbitrarily dropping out from the draft, while others kept going, until attrition finally ended the process. The final two teams participating in this draft were the Dayton Aeros and the Los Angeles Sharks.[2] In all, just under 1100 selections were made by the 12 teams, who could now focus their efforts on signing players for the first season of play.

Regular season summaryEdit

The first WHA games, on October 11, 1972, were won by the Alberta Oilers 7-4 over the Ottawa Nationals and the Cleveland Crusaders 2-0 over the Quebec Nordiques.[3][4]

The WHA was split into two divisions, the Eastern Division and the Western Division. Each division sported six 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 four teams fighting for three playoff spots, trading second through fifth place all season. Houston won three of its last four games to finish second with 82 points. With two games remaining, Minnesota had 79 points, Alberta had 77, and Los Angeles had 76. Los Angeles won their last two games to finish third, 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 two points ahead of Alberta. Alberta won the game 5-3, so both teams finished with identical records. 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 eight games with four 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 of which 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 standingsEdit

GP = Games Played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against, PIM = Penalties in minutes
Teams that qualifies for the playoffs are highlighted in bold

Eastern Division
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
Western Division
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

Player statsEdit

Scoring leadersEdit

Bolded numbers indicate season leaders

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

Player Team GP G A Pts PIM
Andre Lacroix Philadelphia Blazers 78 50 74 124 83
Ron Ward New York Raiders 77 51 67 118 28
Danny Lawson Philadelphia Blazers 78 61 45 106 35
Tom Webster New England Whalers 77 53 50 103 89
Bobby Hull Winnipeg Jets 63 51 52 103 37
Norm Beaudin Winnipeg Jets 78 38 65 103 15
Chris Bordeleau Winnipeg Jets 78 47 54 101 12
Terry Caffery New England Whalers 74 39 61 100 14
Gord Labossiere Houston Aeros 77 36 60 96 56
Wayne Carleton Ottawa Nationals 75 42 49 91 42

Leading goaltendersEdit

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

All-star gameEdit

The WHA held its first all-star game on January 6, 1973, in Quebec City. The attendence of 5,435 was lower than expected, perhaps because it was locally televised and Quebec City was hit by a major snow storm. The East defeated the West 6-2. Wayne Carleton of the Ottawa Nationals was named the game MVP.

During the all-star break, the WHA Players' Association was officially formed, with Curt Leichner of Portland as general counsel and Bill Hicke of the Alberta Oilers as president.[5]

Playoff summaryEdit

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 semifinal 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 playoffsEdit

Quarterfinals Semifinals 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 finalsEdit

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. Upon their win, The Avco World Trophy had not yet been completed. As a result, the Whalers skated their "victory lap" with their divisional trophy causing an embarrassment for the WHA officials.

WHA awardsEdit


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 gameEdit

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

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Surgent, Scott Adam (1999). The Complete Historical and Statistical Reference to the World Hockey Association 1972-1979. Tempe, Arizona: Xaler Press. pp. 447–51. ISBN 0964477408.
  2. ^ Willes, Ed (2004). The Rebel League: The Short and Unruly Life of the World Hockey Association. Toronto, Ontario: McClelland & Stewart Ltd. pp. 23–4. ISBN 0771089473.
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Marlow, Walt, ed. (1973). 1973-74 Media Guide. Newport Beach: WHA Properties.