AH Timeline: The NHL-WHA merger: A different story

In 1977-78, The National Hockey League was considering adding 8 new teams. Those teams were all from the rival World Hockey Association (WHA) and were the Edmonton Oilers, Hartford Whalers, Winnipeg Jets, Quebec Nordiques, Houston Aeros, Cincinnati Stingers, Indianapolis Racers and Birmingham Bulls. Out of those 8, only the first four I mentioned got in a year later in 1979. But, what if all eight got in for the 1978-79 NHL Season? What would the NHL look like in this universe in 2020? Would any of these teams survive in their original markets? I will answer all those questions and more with this timeline which begins with the 1978 NHL draft and will go till present day.

Authors Note: All rosters for the WHA teams will be the same as they were for the 1977-78 season. For rookies that year, they will be in that years NHL draft.
 
Nice! Consider me intrigued! though i have some predictions concerning the fate of the teams and the league as a whole:

-Indianapolis will relocate to hamilton, ontario to ressurect the tigers once the copps colisseum opens in 1983. The owner of the racers did threaten to relocate the franchise there IOTL.

-Hockey in 'bama? No chance! They are most likely to move right away. We have plwnty of options here:
Dallas, which had a NHL-ready arena in 1980, Seattle, hell, even new jersey, for that matter! That could mean the rockies staying in colorado...or they would still move somewhere else, like seattle, for example.

-The NHL must have a national TV Deal in the US. This screwed the profile of the league in america big time, which indirectly led to gary bettman, and the southern expansion along with the gretzky trade. Oh, and add a revenue sharing system to help the small market teams as a bonus. You'll thank me later for that one.

-Please, NHL, don't let your stupid grudge against the WHA get the better of you and don't screw the teams over! Can you imagine dale hawerchuck playing with the swedish express and the magic man as his #2? That would've been amazing.

Other than that, i'd love to see how edmonton and gretzky does without mark messier. I can't wait for this to start!
 
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Nice! Consider me intrigued! though i have some predictions concerning the fate of the teams and the league as a whole:


-The NHL must have a national TV Deal in the US. This screwed the profile of the league in america big time, which indirectly led to gary bettman, and the southern expansion along with the gretzky trade. Oh, and add a revenue sharing system to help the small market teams as a bonus. You'll thank me later for that one.

-Please, NHL, don't let your stupid grudge against the WHA get the better of you and don't screw the teams over! Can you imagine dale hawerchuck playing with the swedish express and the magic man as his #2? That would've been amazing.

Other than that, i'd love to see how edmonton and gretzky does without mark messier. I can't wait for this to start!
Welcome to the series! Here are some things you should know before we start

1. The Cleveland Barons still merge with the North Stars that summer. It was inevitable that team would fold. As the Oakland/California Seals, they were a laughingstock to be honest. They gave up some draft picks to the Canadiens for some players who did nothing. The Canadiens used one of those picks to select the great Guy LaFluer. Things weren't much better in Ohio. Two seasons with a losing record, bad attendance and no TV contract. In other words, that franchise failed from the word go.

2. At this time, the NHL had a TV deal in the US with CBS that ran until 1980 IRL. That will be carried over in this timeline. I plan to have the league get a big TV deal in the US once FOX comes along. (IRL Fox broadcast some NHL games in the late 1990s). But until FOX is founded, you will see who gets to broadcast the NHL in the U.S. :)

3. Like I said in the beginning, the rosters from the last WHA season ITTL (1977-78) will be same as their first NHL season. Gretzky and Messier entered the WHA in 1978-79 so they will be in the NHL draft this year.

The draft will be up soon! Stay Tuned...
 
1978 NHL draft
1978 NHL Amateur draft
June 15, 1978

Notable players taken

- Bobby Smith 1st pick (Minnesota North Stars)

- Mark Messier 2nd pick (Washington Capitals)

- Wayne Gretzky 3rd pick (St Louis Blues)

- Joel Quennville 19th pick (Cincinnati Stingers)

- Craig MacTavish 153rd pick (Boston Bruins)

new NHL alighment

Whales Conference

Adams Division
Boston Bruins
Buffalo Sabers
Hartford Whales
Montreal Canadiens
Quebec Nordiques
Toronto Maple Leafs

Patrick Division
Atlanta Flames
Birmingham Bulls
New York Islanders
New York Rangers
Philadelphia Flyers
Pittsburgh Penguins
Washington Capitals

Campbell Conference

Snythe Division
Colorado Rockies
Edmonton Oilers
Houston Aeros
Los Angeles Kings
Vancouver Canucks
Winnipeg Jets

Norris Divsion
Chicago Black Hawks
Cincinnati Stingers
Detroit Red Wings
Indianapolis Racers
Minnesota North Stars
St Louis Blues

The 1978-1979 NHL Season is up next! Stay Tuned! Comments are strongly appreaciated!
 
Surprised that minnesota still picked Bobby Smith. Did people scouted Gretzky IOTL, or nobody thought he would be that good? Still, Gretzky in St. Louis is interesting. The blues were Bad before the late 80s, so wonder how they will build the team around him. I believe Edmonton would still become a good team IMO, since their guys like kurri, kevin lowe, charlie huddy, paul coffey, glen anderson and Grant fuhr were picked in the late rounds.

Messier to the capitals is also interesting. What were the other picks for the WHA Teams?
 
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Surprised that minnesota still picked Bobby Smith. Did people scouted Gretzky IOTL, or nobody thought he would be that good? Still, Gretzky in St. Louis is interesting. The blues were Bad before the late 80s, so wonder how they will build the team around him. I believe Edmonton would still become a good team IMO, since their guys like kurri, kevin lowe, charlie huddy, paul coffey, glen anderson and Grant fuhr were picked in the late rounds.

Messier to the capitals is also interesting. What were the other picks for the WHA Teams?
People thought Wayne was a little too young to go number one overall so Minnesota kinda went with what they thought was a safer pick in Smith who would have a okay career. The Blues would get Bernie Federko and Doug Gilmour who would both be solid players later on IRL. But most of the guys who became part of the Oiler dynasty might end up elsewhere ITTL. Messier on the Caps means if they still get the talent they would get later in the decade, they may win a Stanley Cup or two. As for the other WHA teams, they were placed at the end of each round, so they mostly took people you’ve probably never heard of before.
 
1978-79 NHL Season
1978-79 NHL regular season
playoff teams in BOLD
Whales Conference

Adams Division
Montreal Canadiens 115 points
Boston Bruins 100 points
Buffalo Sabers 88 points
Quebec Nordiques 87 points

Hartford Whalers 83 points
Toronto Maple Leafs 81 points

Patrick Division
New York Islanders 116 points
Philadelphia Flyers 95 points
New York Rangers 91 points
Atlanta Flames 90 points

Pittsburgh Penguins 85 points
Birmingham Bulls 70 points
Washington Capitals 66 points

Campbell Conference

Snythe Division
Winnipeg Jets 89 points
Edmonton Oilers 82 points
Los Angeles Kings 80 points
Houston Aeros 79 points

Vancouver Canucks 63 points
Colorado Rockies 42 points

Norris Division
Chicago Black Hawks 73 points
Cincinnati Stingers 72 points
Minnesota North Stars 68 points
Detroit Red Wings 62 points

St Louis Blues 60 points
Indianapolis Racers 40 points

In the first post-merger season, the three-time defending Stanley Cup Champions from Montreal were up to their usual tricks again racking up an impressive 115 points. They would have company however as the New York Islanders had a 116 point-campaign for first in the entire NHL. As for the former WHA teams, most did pretty well in fact. The Quebec Nordiques would reach the playoffs thanks to finishing fourth in the Adams Division. (This was when the NHL playoff format was the top 4 teams in each Division are guaranteed to make the playoffs). The Winnipeg Jets would one-up the Nords however by winning a weak Snythe Division over the WHA-rival Edmonton Oilers. The Cincinnati Stingers would nearly win the even-weaker Norris Division, but Chicago got it on the last day of the season. Meanwhile, teams like the Birmingham Bulls, Indianapolis Racers and Colorado Rockies are struggling both on the ice and at the box office and could be sold and moved elsewhere.

Awards
MVP: Brian Trottier- New York Islanders
COTY: Al Arbour- New York Islanders
ROTY: Wayne Gretzky- St Louis Blues

Comments appreciated! How did your team do?
 
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I kinda figured that the jets and the nords would be the ones who does well the most out of the WHA Teams, since they had actually good NHL-level teams, especially winnipeg with the swedish express. Lets hope they do well in the playoffs, too!

BTW, do you use any simulator for this, like FHM 6 or something?
 
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I kinda figured that the jets and the nords would be the ones who does well the most out of the WHA Teams, since they had actually good NHL-level teams, especially winnipeg with the swedish express. Lets hope they do well in the playoffs, too!

BTW, do you use any simulator for this, like FHM 6 or something?
Winnipeg got lucky because they were inserted into a very week division in a very weak conference and have a great shot to pull a Vegas Golden Knights and reach the Stanley Cup Final in their first season. Quebec however is heavy underdogs against their new cross-province rival, the historic Montreal Canadiens. This may sound kind of silly, but I just used my imagination combined with the real-life NHL standings for this season. I may pick up a simulator later on however.
 
1979 Stanley Cup Playoffs
1979 Stanley Cup playoffs
First Round
MTL 3 - QUE 0
BOS 3 - BUF 2
NYI 3 - ATL 1
PHI 2 - NYR 3

WPG 3 - HOU 1
LA 3 - EDM 2
CHI 3 - DET 1
CIN 2 - MIN 3

Second Round
MTL 3 - BOS 4
NYI 4 - NYR 2

WPG 4 - LA 0
CHI 4 - MIN 2

Conf. Finals
Boston Bruins vs New York Islanders

G1: BOS 2 @ NYI 3 (2OT) Islanders lead series 1-0
After both teams scored twice early on, Gilles Gilbert for the Bruins and Billy Smith for the Isles matched each other save-for-save until John Tonelli scores halfway through the second overtime to win it.

G2: BOS 0 @ NYI 2 Islanders lead series 2-0
Billy Smith is perfect yet again as the Islanders take a 2-0 series heading to Boston.

G3: NYI 6 @ BOS 3 Islanders lead series 3-0
Mike Bossy records a hat-trick to help lead New York to a chokehold on the series as they are one win away from their first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history.

G4: NYI 1 @ BOS 2 Islanders lead series 3-1
The B's get a win to stay alive with Rick Middleton scoring both Boston goals to send the series back to Nassau Coliseum for game 5.

G5: BOS 2 @ NYI 3 (OT) Islanders win series 4-1
With Boston leading 2-1 with just seconds left in the third period, Bob Nystrom puts home a rebound to tie the game. Then just 19 seconds into overtime, John Tonelli does it again, scoring a breakaway goal past Gilbert to send New York to the Stanley Cup Final

Winnipeg Jets vs Chicago Black Hawks

G1: CHI 0 @ WPG 5 Jets lead series 1-0
Kent Nilsson and the powerful "Swedish Express" of the Jets would dominate game 1, racking up 44 shots and scoring 5 goals. Chicago could get nothing past goalie Markus Mattsson as Winnipeg took game 1 easily.

G2: CHI 0 @ WPG 10 Jets lead series 2-0
If Game 1 was a blowout, then game 2 was a complete whipping of the Black Hawks by the Jets. Winnipeg would score a record 10 goals with two players (Nilsson and Willy Lindstrom) recording hat-tricks. Chicago used 3 goalies in this game as well, that's how bad it was for them.

G3: WPG 7 @ CHI 1 Jets lead series 3-0
The Jets continued to look absolutely unstoppable as the series shifted to Chicago Stadium. Willy Lindstrom and his teammates continued to razzle and dazzle all over the Hawks. Chicago would finally get on the board in this one on a goal from Stan Mikita late in the second.

G4: WPG 6 @ CHI 1 Jets win series 4-0
Winnipeg would dominate for the fourth straight game in this series. The Swedish Express was on full display again to send the Jets to the Stanley Cup Final in just their first season in the NHL.

The Finals will be in a separate post! We're set up for a good one!
 
J-E-T-S SCORE! SCORE! SCORE!

Oh please, win this one for all of middle canada, winnipeg! (I'm from montreal, BTW, so no bias.).

Also, i take it that john tonelli was traded to the isles ITTL, since he would start with houston?

BTW, does LA still trade the 1979 9th overall pick for a goalie? Cause that pick turned out to be raymond bourque. Combine bourque with larry murphy and draft a decent goalie (Kelly hrudey in 1980), and marcel dionne would finally get some much needed help.
 
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J-E-T-S SCORE! SCORE! SCORE!

Oh please, win this one for all of middle canada, winnipeg! (I'm from montreal, BTW, so no bias.).

Also, i take it that john tonelli was traded to the isles ITTL, since he would start with houston?

BTW, does LA still trade the 1979 9th overall pick for a goalie? Cause that pick turned out to be raymond bourque. Combine bourque with larry murphy and draft a decent goalie (Kelly hrudey in 1980), and marcel dionne would finally get some much needed help.
I'll answer this In 3 parts

1.) The Jets definitely faced much worse competition than the Isles did in the playoffs, so this is a whole new level of competition. This should be a really interesting final.
Plus, the Jets have some added support from Ranger fans who don't want their roommates taking away their fans just because the Islanders have won a cup and the Rangers still haven't won since 1940 even in this world.

2.) I didn't know that Tonelli played in Houston before the Isles. Not much of a hockey historian here, but sure I guess he was traded to NYI.

3.) They decide against that trade last second, so will see if they get Ray Bourque or not.

A big thing a forgot to mention is that during the regular season is that Ted Turner bought the Flames and will keep them in Atlanta. That leaves Calgary for either Birmingham, Colorado or Indy to move to.
 
I'll answer this In 3 parts

1.) The Jets definitely faced much worse competition than the Isles did in the playoffs, so this is a whole new level of competition. This should be a really interesting final.
Plus, the Jets have some added support from Ranger fans who don't want their roommates taking away their fans just because the Islanders have won a cup and the Rangers still haven't won since 1940 even in this world.

2.) I didn't know that Tonelli played in Houston before the Isles. Not much of a hockey historian here, but sure I guess he was traded to NYI.

3.) They decide against that trade last second, so will see if they get Ray Bourque or not.

A big thing a forgot to mention is that during the regular season is that Ted Turner bought the Flames and will keep them in Atlanta. That leaves Calgary for either Birmingham, Colorado or Indy to move to.
Well, i already predicted indy to go to hamilton to ressurect the tigers once the copps colisseum opens in 1983 and Colorado may or may not go to new Jersey as OTL, so yeah, birmingham and colorado are the contenders for calgary...or you'll throw me a curve ball and colorado moves to seattle or soemthing lol.

Eesh, hope that houston learns from the tonelli trade and start piling up the prospects! Hope they got something good in return for tonelli, too!
 
1979 Stanley Cup Final
1979 Stanley Cup Final
Winnipeg Jets (Campbell Conference Champions) vs New York Islanders (Whales Conference Champions

G1: WPG 2 @ NYI 3 Islanders lead series 1-0

Winnipeg on paper, would have dominated game 1 thanks to their 52 shots on goal. But Billy Smith stopped all but 2 shots he faced including an unbelievable glove save on Kent Nilsson with just 23 seconds left in regulation. Meanwhile, Brian Trottier and Mike Bossy would be up to their usual tricks scoring all Islander goals to take game 1.

G2: WPG 7 @ NYI 6 (3OT) Series tied 1-1

In a game 2 marathon, both teams put on a show. The Swedish Express took the Islanders for a ride in the first, scoring 5 goals in that period. But New York would not quit and rally to take a 6-5 lead with 2:08 to play in the 3rd that chased Jets goalie Markus Mattsson from the net and replaced by Joe Daley. Winnipeg would score the tying goal with just 1.4 seconds left in regulation as Nilsson got redemption from game 1 on Smith. Early in the extra period, Clark Gilles had a chance to end it, but he kicked the puck in so the refs didn't count it. Both goalies played their hearts out as a late night game became an early morning game on Long Island. Finally, with just 37 seconds left in Triple overtime (and past 1 am local time), Morris Lukowich scored on a two-on-one to steal home-ice advantage and tie the series going north to Winnipeg.

G3: NYI 3 @ WPG 1 Islanders lead series 2-1

Brian Trottier would have his third straight 2 goal game of the series as his team shut down the Jet offense for most of the night to take the series lead again.

G4: NYI 4 @ WPG 3 (OT) Islanders lead series 3-1

In another overtime classic, the Jets dominated on just about everything except finding the back of the net as Billy Smith had to stop 66 shots for the win. John Tonelli, acquired in a trade from the Aeros would score his third overtime winner in this playoff year to give the Islanders a 3-1 series lead heading home for game 5

G5: WPG 5 @ NYI 4 (2OT) Islanders lead series 3-2

Game 5 also went to overtime. The Jets once again opened up a lead in third only to see the Islanders rally to tie the game up and send it to OT. Rich Preston would play hero for Winnipeg scoring just 1 minute and 4 seconds left in the second overtime to delay the Islanders Stanley Cup celebration for at least another game.

G6: NYI 1 @ WPG 2 Series tied 3-3

Game 6 looked like it was again bound for overtime, until with 29 seconds left Preston would strike again to give the Jets the lead. New York would have one last chance though and with seconds left Bob Nystrom had an amazing chance to tie the game, but Mattsson would make an amazing save to send the series to a game 7 on Long Island

G7: WPG 0 @ NYI 5 Islanders win series 4-3

Game 7 would be unspectacular as the Jets finally ran out of gas. Mike Bossy and Brian Trottier would combine for all the Islander goals as New York cruised to their first Stanley Cup in franchise history in a rout.

1979 Stanley Cup Champions
New York Islanders

Comments appreciated!
 
Oof. So close...Oh well, the jets'll win it next year, i'm sure of it. The isle sure are glad to have acquired tonelli. BTW, what did the Aeros got in return?
 
Oof. So close...Oh well, the jets'll win it next year, i'm sure of it. The isle sure are glad to have acquired tonelli. BTW, what did the Aeros got in return?
The Aeros got some draft picks in 1979, 1980 and 1981 from the Islanders. To be clearer they got the Islanders first round pick in 79, first and second round pick in 80 and third round pick in 81. It was tough finals for Jets fans for sure, maybe 1979-80 will be their year.
 
1979 NHL offseason News
After a few seasons of mediocrity, Nelson Skalbania and his Indianapolis Racers will be moving North and West to Calgary, Alberta for the 1979-1980 NHL season. After meeting with the Seaman Brothers, Daryl and Bryon, Skalbania was impressed and will be moving the team there. They will swap divisions with the Houston Aeros. The biggest story is that the team will be called the Calgary Wranglers, after the city's wild west history. They will play at the Stampede Corral until a new arena opens in Calgary
 
-Indianapolis will relocate to hamilton, ontario to ressurect the tigers once the copps colisseum opens in 1983. The owner of the racers did threaten to relocate the franchise there IOTL.

I thought Toronto Maple Leaf was and is against a second NHL team in metro-Toronto. Won't that be very difficult?!

Alternative would be moving to Ottawa or London, Ontario, where it may not have the population base to support a NHL team.
 
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