Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canada's Sports Hall of Fame Recognizes Impact of World Hockey Association

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canada's Sports Hall of Fame Recognizes Impact of World Hockey Association

Article excerpt

Sports Hall of Fame installs WHA exhibit

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CALGARY - The World Hockey Association lasted less than a decade and has been defunct for more than 30 years.

But the renegade league's impact on professional hockey in North America then and now warranted recognition from Canada's Sports Hall of Fame on Thursday.

With help from WHA alumni, the Hall unveiled an exhibit featuring jerseys, photos and pennants from such teams as the Cleveland Crusaders, San Francisco Sharks, Calgary Broncos and New York Raiders.

The conversation piece was a hockey stick that once belonged to a 17-year-old Wayne Gretzky who started his pro career with the Indianapolis Racers.

The stick bears his name incorrectly spelled "W. Gretsky."

The Hall has scheduled an appreciation day for the WHA on Saturday. The Avco Cup, the championship trophy on loan from the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame, will be on display. The public will have an opportunity to meet players.

"I'm actually quite surprised there is this recognition of the World Hockey Association," former player Gerry Pinder said. "I don't think I ever believed this was going to happen."

The WHA operated from 1972 to 1979 and lured dozens of NHL players to its clubs by offering higher salaries and the ability to move between teams.

Bobby Hull, Gordie Howe, Derek Sanderson, Frank Mahovlich, Jacques Plante, Dave Keon, Pat Stapleton and Mark Messier are among the hockey luminaries who count themselves as WHA alumni.

The NHL saw the WHA as a threat and expanded rapidly to keep WHA teams out of markets. The NHL also absorbed four WHA clubs when the league ceased operations in 1979.

The WHA also aggressively recruited European players, of which there were few in the NHL at the time. …

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