This is one of the better books on hockey although it does have some glaring omissions and weird photo choices.
There is virtually nothing on the 1974 Team Canada (really Team WHA) vs. USSR Summit Series plus no mention of the fact that games against the Soviet All-Stars and Czechoslovakia actually counted in the 1977/78 standings which I would like to have known how they decided on that. Plus it's not just these international connections, there's no mention of the fact the WHA reintroduced overtime (10 minutes) to regular season hockey or that they even tried out the shootout in 1972 exhibition games.
Somehow he completely left out talking about Jim Harrison who had a modern major hockey record 10-point game. Another guy to get nary a mention was goalie Don "Smokey" McLeod who was known for his curved stick, a record 43 assists in his WHA career and stopping two penalty shots in a single period not once...but in two different games!
I understand you can't touch on everyone but I often felt too much text was given to the brawlers (who are highly entertaining and funny) but not enough to some of the more remarkable offensive feats.
Also, who approved the pictures? The front cover is of Bobby Hull (as it should be) but it's of him being shoved by what looks like Brad Selwood. Come on! You gotta have Hull flying in on goal shooting the puck as your cover ...and put the Wayner on the back cover.
The appendix is totally lame just listing teams year by year. They had enough room so why not put the standings and maybe playoff results in that space?
Plus inside we get a pic of Derek Sanderson in his Blazers' jersey but it sure looks like he's wearing an AHL Boston Braves (huh?) jersey. Also, the pic of Ulf Nilsson, Anders Hedberg and Bobby Hull is not even in their Jets' jerseys. It looks like Nilsson is wearing a New York Rangers #18 Andre Dore jersey. What is up with that? The caption also says they are "celebrating a goal" but if they are, why are all three wearing different jerseys while Hull is not wearing any hockey gloves, has no stick and is clutching another jersey in his hands?
Enough of the negative as the positive does outweigh the negative here. His call for the "Hockey" (not NHL!) Hall of Fame to recognize Nilsson, Hedberg and Mark Howe is a point well taken. I also dug the whole birth of the WHA and how it all came together. Plus he is able to articulate how the NHL Oilers of the '80s based their freewheeling style on the WHA Jets of the Hull-Hedberg-Nilsson era.
He also gave the best description of what actually happened in the Rick Jodzio attack on Marc Tardif incident which was probably the WHA's low point.
The stories about Gordie Howe and his two sons were endlessly fascinating and worthy of a book on their own, too.
Willes' style is breezy and you can read this in one sitting but given the goldmine of material, I wanted about 200 more pages.
on July 10, 2007
All in all, a good read that summarizes the impact the WHA had. It was a league of extremes ie the BEST ie Winnipeg Jets, Quebec Nordiques, and the worst ie New Jersey Knights, Denver Spurs, etc. It is worth noting that in pre season exhibition games between the NHL and WHA, the WHA won more games. The Jets were world class, and the Nordiques, Whalers and Aeros were as good as any respectible NHL team.
The NHL experienced it's best era in the 1980's, simply because it absorbed so many former WHA players ie Gretzky, Messier, Gartner, Goulet, both Nilssons, Hedberg, the Howe brothers, Vaive, Ramage, Hartsburg, Langway, and on and on and on.
To this day, the NHL ignores the fact that the WHA improved hockey by allowing Europeans to play.
In retrospect, it is too bad the WHA never survived. Rather than a 30 team NHL, imagine two competing leagues with the same number of teams, the champion of each league competing for the Stanley Cup. At present, the NHL enjoys a monopoly because it has expanded into every conceivable market, so as to head off any new potential revival of new WHA entity coming into existence.