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Old 10-22-2019, 07:21 PM   #1
Dkitson16
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Rise of the WHL

In this alternate universe I speculate as to what would have happened if the old WHL (not the current junior league) had turned pro.

As many people know, two of the reasons the NHL expanded in 67 were to get television revenue and the threat of the WHL turning pro (possibly with some AHL teams) and "stealing" the LA and SF markets.

Without the influence of a new wave of NHL owners, presidents and governors the 67 NHL expansion may not have happened.

In the early 60's William Jennings became President of Madison Square Gardens, the Knicks and the Rangers. He was a driving force in expanding, expanding big and to the west. The Molson family (Montreal) were also big on expanding quick. Boston and Detroit also favoured a big expansion.

Stafford Smythe (Toronto) and Jim Norris (Chicago) wanted slow expansion and in the east first. Smythe was not impressed after a tour of WHL cities and was probably annoyed that Vancouver rejected his "offer" to build an arena there.

In this alternate world Jennings and the Molson family do not become involved in their respective teams until the late 60's so when the NHL announces it's expansion plans in March of 1965, it announces it will expand by TWO teams in 1967 and they will be based in the east.

The Western Hockey League, disappointed after years of backroom negotiating, declares itself professional for the 1966-67 season.

Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver, Seattle, Portland and the new expansion team in San Diego will turn fully pro. Victoria will stay minor-pro.

How will the NHL respond? How will the two leagues grow?

Needless to say that with the WHL there will be no WHA. What will that mean to Winnipeg, Edmonton, Quebec and Hartford?

In the real history the WHL had a "white paper" agreement with the NHL to include further WHL cities in expansion (after LA and SF were admitted) and this is why none of their cities joined the WHA early on. It was signed in 72 right after Washington and KC were confirmed for the 74 expansion. This was why Seattle and Denver were granted NHL teams for 76 and why San Diego was virtually guaranteed to follow in 78.

For ease of administration I will have the WHL as a separate conference in the NHL. This means they will draft and trade with the NHL and compete for the Cup. But it will ease the administrative burden of merging the leagues at a future date.
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Old 10-23-2019, 11:33 PM   #2
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Introducing the 6 teams of the Western Hockey League:

Los Angeles Blades

San Francisco Seals

San Diego Gulls
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Old 10-23-2019, 11:35 PM   #3
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And:

Seattle Totems

Portland Buckaroos

Vancouver Canucks
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Old 10-23-2019, 11:47 PM   #4
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The 1966 season begins with the two leagues operating separately.

The NHL has succesfully prevented the AHL from joining the WHL in an independent league by promising the top 4 cities: Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Cleveland and Baltimore NHL expansion franchises. Those 4 cities could have brought the WHL a national tv contract in the US.

On the other hand the NHL doesn't have LA or San Francisco - two cities the NHL needs for a tv contract.

To get some exposure on tv the two leagues agree that their champions will play for the Stanley Cup on tv. No one doubts the NHL currently has the better players, but how long will this last?

Chicago leads the NHL standings and the LA Blades decimate the WHL in the regular season.

Chicago's Hull and Mikita lead the leagues in scoring with LA's Gene Ubriaco coming in 3rd.
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Old 10-23-2019, 11:52 PM   #5
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In the playoffs Portland upsets LA and then San Francisco to get to the Cup.

Detroit upsets Chicago and then beats Montreal to reach there.

Detroit easily corrals the Buckaroos.

The networks dream of LA or San Fran facing Chicago or New York ends.
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Old 10-23-2019, 11:55 PM   #6
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As the 1967 season begins the two leagues are in discussion about playing an interlocking schedule for the TV networks. They can only agree to continue playing for the Stanley Cup and to hold an interlocking draft - the top 10 picks are listed below.

The NHL keeping to its agreement with the AHL admits Pittsburgh and the Baltimore Clippers to the senior league.
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Last edited by Dkitson16; 10-23-2019 at 11:58 PM.
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Old 10-24-2019, 12:08 AM   #7
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At the end of the 1967-68 season Montreal and San Diego top the two leagues and expansion Baltimore makes the playoffs.

Hull (Chicago) and Richard (Montreal) top the scoring. Los ANgeles BLade defenceman Larrant Svedberg ties Esposito and Mikita for 4th in scoring, while rookie defenceman Bobby Orr finishes 7th.

Svedberg wins the Norris and Orr wins the Calder. Hull wins MVP.

I'll be honest I adjusted Orr's injury frequency and longevity, just because who wouldn't want to see him play longer?

In the playoffs Baltimore makes it to the 2nd round but Detroit faces LA in the final giving the networks much better ratings than Portland did.

Detroit cuts through the Blades of LA and takes the cup in five.
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Old 10-24-2019, 12:14 AM   #8
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As the 1968-69 season begins the two leagues are still discussing a working agreement.

To match the senior circuit the WHL adds teams in Phoenix and Denver.

Both leagues are still avoiding the center of the continent. The NHL has committed to Buffalo and Cleveland in the next expansion due to the prior agreement with the AHL.

The unified draft continues and Phoenix picks first drafting Bobby Clarke and the WHL has its first bona fide star.
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Old 10-24-2019, 01:16 AM   #9
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At the end of the 68-69 season Detroit and San Diego top their respective leagues.

Chicago's Hull and Portland's Andre Lacroix top the leagues in scoring. Rookie Bobby Clarke finishes 5th and wins the Calder.

Bobby Hull now has 506 goals and 1021 points ranking 3rd all time in each category.

Detroit and San Diego meet in the Cup with Wings clipping the Gull's...wings for their 3rd straight cup
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Old 10-24-2019, 01:22 AM   #10
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The 1969-70 season opens with the NHL adding Buffalo and Cleveland fulfilling their agreement with the AHL.

The 1969 draft sees Cleveland go before Buffalo and the Barons draft Gilbert Perrault. Buffalo adds highly rated goalie Dan Bouchard while Phoenix in 4th adds Darryl Sittler to pair with Bobby Clarke. GOalie Billy Smith goes to Seattle, while Borje Salming will pair with Bobby Orr in Boston.
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Old 10-24-2019, 01:35 AM   #11
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The 1969-70 season ends with Detroit and Portland topping the standings.

Detroit faces San Diego in the final for the 2nd straight year and the Red Wings win their 4th straight Cup! The Gulls do win 2 games however.

In a blockbuster trade Chicago sent Phil Esposito to Montreal in exchange for Serge Savard.

Hull (112), Rod Gilbert of the Rangers (105) and Mikita (102) become the first 3 players to top 100 points.

Buffalo finishes with 4 wins, no ties and 8 points. They only scored 84 goals and gave up 463 for a negative 379 goal total.

Buffalo rookie goalie Dan Bouchard has 0 wins and 27 losses with a 7.19 GAA in 48 games. In 65 games Jim McLeod has 4 wins and 40 losses and a 6.02 GAA.

As a result the NHL seriously considers putting a hold on further expansion. The WHL makes no comment.
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Old 10-27-2019, 08:32 PM   #12
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Detroit is destroying the league, holy moley. Salming-Orr is gonna be something to watch for in the next few years
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Old 10-28-2019, 11:08 PM   #13
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The 1970-71 season open with the WHL expanding to Minnesota and St.Louis. There's rumours they want to place a second team in Chicago next.

The NHL is livid believing the territory of the Central League should be theirs. Lawsuits ensue. The networks still force them to play a Stanley Cup against each other due to the financial success of it.

There are rumours the founders of the ABA are looking at cities to create an other competing league. They see many ripe Canadian markets, some southern and central cities and a few cities that could handle a second team.

In the 1970 draft Guy LaFleur goes to Minnesota and Marcel Dionne to St. Louis. Larry Robinson goes to Cleveland where he'll team up with Gilbert Perreault.
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Old 10-28-2019, 11:19 PM   #14
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The 1970-71 season concludes with the New York Rangers breaking the Red Wings hold on the cup and ending their quest for 5 straight.

New York defeats St. Louis in four. St. Louis (without LaFleur who hasn't yet made the senior squad) made it to the Cup in their first year.

New York and Detroit had won the divisions in the regular season and expansion cousins St. Louis and Minnesota won the WHL divisions.

Hull and Mikita of Chicago dominated the scoring with Orr, Esposito (of Montreal) and Ullman all cracking 100 points.

Hull moves into 2nd all time in points and goals and sets new records for goals (70) and points (142). Orr sets a new assist record with 89.

On a side note Dan Bouchard of Buffalo goes 1 - 42 - 1 with a 5.03 GPA. His career stats are now 1 win, 69 losses and 1 tie for a GPA of 5.80.
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Old 10-29-2019, 12:32 AM   #15
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In the 1971 draft Buffalo picks first overall and takes Jim Schoenfeld.

Lanny McDonald goes 2nd overall to Phoenix to help Bobby CLarke out.

The 1971-72 Regular Season concluded with Boston, Toronto, Minnesota and St. Louis leading their divisions.

Buffalo finished 3-65-8. Dan Bouchard "improved" to 2-24-1 with a 4.33 GPA with the addition of Jim Schoenfeld to defence.

Stan Mikita, Bobby Hull and rookie Marcel Dionne of St. Louis led the league in scoring. Rookie Guy LaFleur of Minnesota finished 10th.

GOrdie Howe now 43 topped 50 goals and 100 points for the 2nd straight year.

Minnesota was led by Goal-tending tandem Ken and Dave Dryden.
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Old 10-29-2019, 12:37 AM   #16
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In the 1972 playoffs, and in their second year of existence the St. Louis Blues win the Stanley Cup becoming the first WHL team to do so.
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Old 11-02-2019, 01:55 PM   #17
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The 1972-73 season starts with many moves in the off season.

A new League the WHA attempted to start. The NHL and WHL weak from infighting "kiss and make up" and fully integrate the two leagues under one banner. They will begin to play an integrated schedule allowing teams like NY and LA to face each other, leading to a better TV contract.

Then taking the threat of the WHA seriously, they approach many of the prospective owners and offer them teams.

Winnipeg, Quebec, Houston and Atlanta* are all immediately stolen from the WHA.

Edmonton, Calgary, New England and Miami are promised teams if the can build suitable arenas in 2 to 4 years. The New England team must be atleast 50 miles from Boston or New York to satisfy territorial rights.

Undercut the WHA never actually forms.

*The WHA seriously pursued the owners of the Atlanta franchise for inclusion in the WHA.
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Old 11-02-2019, 02:36 PM   #18
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In the 1972 Draft

Rick Middleton goes to Houston

Dennis Potvin goes to Quebec

Atlanta picks Jean Lemieux? and

Winnipeg picks Bob Lorimer?

Some "no-name" named Bob Gainey goes to Buffalo in the 5th slot.

I think a couple teams need to improve their scouting including my hometown Jets.
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Old 11-09-2019, 04:44 PM   #19
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1972-1973 Regular Season

New York, Chicago, Phoenix and Portland top their divisions.

Expansion Quebec finishes 4th in their division with 89 points and expansion Houston finishes 2nd in a weaker division with 76 points.

Buffalo finishes last overall with 42 points.

In the Dan Bouchard watch, the Sabres goalie goes 11-41-7 with a 4.17 GPA to vastly improve his career totals to 14-134-11 with a 4.91 GPA.

Hull ties his own goal record getting 70. Hull and Mikita led all point scorers with the ageless Howe coming in 4th. Overall 15 players topped 100 points.
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Old 11-09-2019, 04:49 PM   #20
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Rangers win! Rangers win! defeating Phoenix for the cup!
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