If The NHL Locks Out, Can The WHA Make A Real Comeback This Time?


Maybe I’m counting my chickens before they hatch, but it’s always good to have a backup plan.  Eh, Oilers defence?

Gary Bettman left it all out on the table yesterday, saying the owners aren’t going to play in 2012-13 under the old CBA. Unless the owners get all chummy with the players in the next month, we could be en route to an NHL-free 2013. So while you and I can read the tea leaves all we’d like, it’s really out of our hands.

Flash back about eight years to the last lockout. We’ll call it ‘2004-05’, a time when the entire season was usurped from our hands. Not only was that a tough time for the fans, it couldn’t have been too good a time for the players either. The owners couldn’t have been too jocular at the time, now that you mention it.

So what do we do if the NHL crawls to a halt in October?

Start up the WHA again. Except – this time, do it for real.  The WHA had a bright and colourful history from 1972-1979 as the number one competition for the NHL.  It almost saw a resurgence when the NHL’s 2004-05 season was lost.   There was a 2004 draft in Niagara Falls (which, saw Devan Dubnyk drafted by an unnamed ‘Founders Franchise’), and eight teams were scheduled to hit the ice that season.  It was a haphazard occasion.  You had teams from Florida, Dallas, Québec, Hamilton, Toronto and Halifax. This could work, right?

And, it never got off the ground.

Sidney Crosby was the league’s first draft pick, he declined to sign a contract.  The Québec franchise folded, the Toronto franchise couldn’t find a place to play.  Teams were looking for non traditional places to hold rinks (the Pontiac Silverdome in Michigan, for one), and the league never came to be anything more than an ill-constructed idea.

But what if someone got behind the idea today?

Yes, it’s August.  Yes, the NHL season is slated to start in eight weeks.  Gary Bettman has put a September 15 deadline before the league locks out.  Unless the players’ union and the owners move mountains, it could be a sticky winter this year.

I don’t know how it would work, and I don’t even know if it could work.  But I do know this:  NHL folks want to play hockey, and they’d like to earn a couple of dimes to do so.  Fans want to see hockey, and most are willing to pay to see hockey.

And if we could see a bright orange Edmonton sweater like the one Plante is wearing in the trading card, I’d buy one tomorrow.

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