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December 24, 1972 – New England Whalers vs. Los Angeles Sharks

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New England Whalers vs. Los Angeles Sharks
December 24, 1972
Boston Garden
World Hockey Association Programs

MERRY CHRISTMAS, Fun While It Lasted readers.

40 years ago this very night here in my hometown…Santa Claus finds time to drop in at the old Boston Garden as the New England Whalers take on the Los Angeles Sharks in World Hockey Association action.

Written by andycrossley

December 25th, 2012 at 3:07 am

October 1, 1977 – New England Whalers vs. Boston Bruins


New England Whalers vs. Boston Bruins
WHA-NHL Exhibition Game
October 1, 1977
Hartford Civic Center
World Hockey Association Programs

Despite a bitter and often litigious business rivalry, teams from the National Hockey League and the upstart World Hockey Association (1972-1979) played 63 inter-league exhibition matches between 1974 and 1978.  Among the WHA clubs, the New England Whalers were the most enthusiastic participant in these contests, appearing in 16 of the 63 WHA-NHL derbies.

But this was the only night the Whalers ever faced their local market foes, the Boston Bruins.  And this would be the only time Bruins deigned to face a WHA squad.  The Bruins, after all, where one of the most strident anti-WHA hardliners during the league merger discussions that stretched throughout the mid-late 1970′s.  A sampling of their grievances and responses…

  • The Bruins were defending Stanley Cup champions when the WHA launched in 1972. The new league promptly raided the B’s roster, plucking away Gerry Cheevers, Ted Green (lured away by the Whalers), Johnny McKenzie and Derek Sanderson.
  • Boston was so hockey mad in 1972 that the city supported two pro teams at the Boston Garden. Weston Adams Jr. controlled the Garden and owned both the Bruins and their top farm club, the Boston Braves.  During the Braves first season in 1971-72, the team drew bigger crowds than some NHL teams.  But the Whalers move into the Garden in 1972 put the Braves out of business within two years.
  • By April 1974, the Whalers owed $50,000 in back rent to Adams and attempted to pull their gear out of the Garden for a playoff game in Springfield, Massachusetts.  Adams barricaded the Whalers’ locker room with the Garden’s Zamboni machine to extract the rent.
  • Paul Mooney replaced Adams as Bruins and Garden President in 1975.  Mooney was an anti-WHA stalwart and helped to scuttle a 1977 merger plan that nearly united the two leagues.

The Whalers always played the NHL tough in these exhibitions.  Most observers considered the NHL to be the superior league, but the Whalers went 9-3-4 in inter-league play.  Just the evening before the Whale beat the New York Rangers 7-4.   This would not be their night though.   The Bruins teed off of Whalers goaltender Cap Raeder for five goals in the first period, courtesy of Dave Forbes, Stan Jonathan, Rick Middleton, Bob Miller and Brad Park.  Cheevers started in net for the Bruins, back from his own three season adventure in the WHA.  The finals score was 5-0 Bruins.

This would be the only time the Whalers and Bruins would meet in the WHA era.  The clubs next met on November 18, 1979 as NHL rivals, after the merger of WHA and NHL finally went through in the summer of 1979 (over the Bruins’ objections, once again).




Written by andycrossley

November 10th, 2012 at 4:54 am

January 28, 1979 – New England Whalers vs. Winnipeg Jets

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New England Whalers vs. Winnipeg Jets
January 28, 1979
The Springfield Civic Center
World Hockey Association Programs
64 pages

New England Whalers left winger Jack Carlson is pictured on this January 1979 program from the dying days of the World Hockey Association (1972-1979).  I received several of these old Whalers “Blue Line” game programs in the mail this week, but chose this one for FWiL because of Carlson’s storyline.

Jack Carlson was one of a trio of hockey playing brothers along with siblings Jeff and Steve, all of whom spent some time in either the WHA or the NHL during their journeymen careers.  All three Carlsons played on the 1974-75 Johnstown (PA) Jets of the minor North American Hockey League during the mid-1970′s, alongside a 23-year old winger named Ned Dowd.  Dowd’s sister Nancy was a budding screenwriter and he provided her with the source material for her breakthrough screenplay, Slap Shot.  The Carlson brothers inspired – and were cast as – the “Hanson Brothers” in Slap Shot, a trio of child-like goons who help transform the fortunes of Paul Newman’s fictitious Charlestown Chiefs in the film.  Steve and Jeff have considerable screen time in the film, but Jack Carlson had to drop out of filming after received a call-up to the Edmonton Oilers of the WHA.  He was replaced by his former Jets teammate, Dave Hanson.

Here’s Jack Carlson in some Hanson-brothers style action with the Whalers in 1978:

The Whalers beat the Winnipeg Jets 8-6 in a high scoring shootout on this January evening in 1979.  Today most hockey fans associate the Whalers with Hartford, Connecticut, where the team played a majority of its WHA-era games during the Seventies.  (Less than two months after this game, the Whalers were one of four WHA clubs accepted into the NHL for the 1979-80 season and formally changed their name to the “Hartford” Whalers).  But the Whalers played the entire 1978-79 season at the Springfield Civic Center due to a January 1978 roof collapse that knocked the Hartford Civic Center out of commission for two full years.

This game was also one of Jack Carlson’s final games as a Whaler after the better part of three years with the team.  Four days later he was sent to the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL as part of an inter-league trade.  Carlson made his final pro appearances with the North Stars during the 1986-87 season at the age of 32.

Jack Carlson’s career statistics on


Written by andycrossley

June 3rd, 2012 at 4:03 am

January 30, 1973 – New England Whalers vs. Cleveland Crusaders

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New England Whalers vs. Cleveland Crusaders
January 30, 1973
The Boston Garden
World Hockey Association Programs
56 Pages

I’m headed in to the TD Garden in Boston this evening for a charity event at tonight’s Bruins vs. Washington Capitals game.  Bostonians over 30 like me still call it “the New Garden”, giving the 16-year old building its rightfully subordinate place beneath the revered Boston Garden of our youth – the smoky, steep sweatbox with loads of obstructed view seats that was demolished in 1997.

For a couple of winters in the early 1970′s the Bruins shared the Garden with their mortal rivals – the New England Whalers of the World Hockey Association.   The existence of the WHA created a form of de facto free agency for NHL players who were previously bound to their teams by the reserve clause.  More than 60 NHL players jumped to the WHA for the league’s debut season in the winter of 1972-73.  The Bruins lost their scoring star Derek Sanderson who signed a five-year, $2.6 million deal with the Philadelphia Blazers that briefly made him the highest paid athlete on Earth.

But the WHA’s biggest coup was signing Chicago Blackhawks star Bobby Hull to a ten-year deal prior to the 1972 season.  “The Golden Jet” would play for the WHA’s Winnipeg Jets franchise, whose name was inspired by the superstar himself.  Hull became the face of the WHA for marketing purposes, to the point where he is pictured smiling on the cover of this January 30th, 1973 New England Whalers program, even though the Whalers foe that night was not Hull’s Jets, but rather the Cleveland Crusaders.

The Whalers played two years at Garden from 1972 to 1974 before moving to the newly opened Hartford Civic Center for the 1974-75 season.  The Whalers were one of four WHA clubs accepted into the NHL for a $6 million expansion fee in a merger between the two leagues in 1979.  Known as the Hartford Whalers from 1979 to 1997, the club moved south in 1997 and is today known as the Carolina Hurricanes.

Here is a some great video of Hull getting after the Chicago Cougars in the WHA days…


Written by andycrossley

March 29th, 2012 at 4:37 pm