NHL–WHA merger

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The 1979 merger of the NHL and WHA was the culmination of several years of negotiations between the National Hockey League (NHL) and the World Hockey Association (WHA) that resulted in the WHA and all of its surviving franchises folding in return for the owners of four of the WHA's six surviving teams (the Edmonton Oilers, New England Whalers, Quebec Nordiques, and Winnipeg Jets) being granted expansion franchises that commenced play in the NHL for the 1979–80 season. The agreement officially took effect on June 22, 1979. The merger ended the seven-year existence of the WHA and re-established the NHL as the lone major league in North American professional ice hockey.

National Hockey League North American professional ice hockey league

The National Hockey League is a professional ice hockey league in North America, currently comprising 31 teams: 24 in the United States and 7 in Canada. The NHL is considered to be the premier professional ice hockey league in the world, and one of the major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada. The Stanley Cup, the oldest professional sports trophy in North America, is awarded annually to the league playoff champion at the end of each season.

World Hockey Association defunct ice hockey major league from 1972 to 1979

The World Hockey Association was a professional ice hockey major league that operated in North America from 1972 to 1979. It was the first major league to compete with the National Hockey League (NHL) since the collapse of the Western Hockey League in 1926. Although the WHA was not the first league since that time to attempt to challenge the NHL's supremacy, it was by far the most successful in the modern era.

Edmonton Oilers hockey team of the National Hockey League

The Edmonton Oilers are a professional ice hockey team based in Edmonton, Alberta. They are members of the Pacific Division of the Western Conference of the National Hockey League (NHL).


The two leagues had discussed the possibility of merging for numerous years, despite the acrimonious relationship between the two after the WHA aggressively recruited NHL players upon the former's founding in 1971. The two sides came close to an agreement in 1977, but the merger was defeated by a group of hard-line NHL owners. The NHL also initially rejected the 1979 agreement by one vote. However, a massive boycott of Molson products in Canada led the Montreal Canadiens, who were owned by the Molson family, to reverse their position in a second vote along with the Vancouver Canucks, allowing the plan to pass.

Canada Country in North America

Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean, covering 9.98 million square kilometres, making it the world's second-largest country by total area. Canada's southern border with the United States is the world's longest bi-national land border. Its capital is Ottawa, and its three largest metropolitan areas are Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. As a whole, Canada is sparsely populated, the majority of its land area being dominated by forest and tundra. Consequently, its population is highly urbanized, with over 80 percent of its inhabitants concentrated in large and medium-sized cities, many near the southern border. Canada's climate varies widely across its vast area, ranging from arctic weather in the north, to hot summers in the southern regions, with four distinct seasons.

Montreal Canadiens National Hockey League team in Montreal, Quebec, Canada

The Montreal Canadiens are a professional ice hockey team based in Montreal, Quebec. They are members of the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference of the National Hockey League (NHL).

Vancouver Canucks hockey team of the National Hockey League

The Vancouver Canucks are a professional ice hockey team based in Vancouver, British Columbia. They are members of the Pacific Division of the Western Conference of the National Hockey League (NHL). The Canucks play their home games at Rogers Arena, formerly known as General Motors Place, which has an official capacity of 18,910. Travis Green is the head coach and Jim Benning is the general manager.

As part of the agreement, the NHL treated the WHA teams' arrival as an expansion rather than an outright merger. The former WHA clubs were stripped of most of their players, and NHL teams were given the right to reclaim players from the WHA clubs without compensation. As a concession for being stripped of most of their players, the former WHA clubs were permitted to keep two goaltenders and two skaters. The four former WHA teams were also placed at the end of the draft order for the 1979 NHL Entry Draft, as opposed to previous and future NHL expansion teams, which had been placed at or very near the front of the draft order.

The 1979 NHL Entry Draft took place on August 9, 1979, at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, Quebec. The National Hockey League (NHL) teams selected 126 players eligible for entry into professional ranks, in the reverse order of the 1978–79 NHL season and playoff standings. The draft was the first to be conducted after the NHL-WHA merger. As part of the terms of the merger, the four former WHA teams had joined the NHL on the condition that they be placed at the bottom of the draft order, as opposed to the top of the order as is usually the case for expansion teams.


Since the demise of the Western Canada Hockey League in 1926, the NHL had existed as the only major professional North American ice hockey league. After dwindling to the Original Six in 1942, the NHL remained stable until the 1960s. Following speculation that the Western Hockey League intended to declare itself a major league, the NHL was entertaining serious expansion discussions by 1963, [1] culminating four years later with the addition of six new teams for the 1967–68 NHL season. [2]

The Western Canada Hockey League (WCHL), founded in 1921, was a major professional ice hockey league originally based in the prairies of Canada. It was renamed the Western Hockey League (WHL) in 1925 and disbanded in 1926.

Original Six

The Original Six is the group of six teams that made up the National Hockey League (NHL) for the 25 seasons between the 1942–43 season and the 1967 NHL expansion. These six teams are the Boston Bruins, Chicago Black Hawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, and the Toronto Maple Leafs, all of which are still active franchises in the league.

1967 NHL expansion

The National Hockey League (NHL) undertook a major expansion for the 1967–68 season. Six new franchises were added to double the size of the league, making this expansion the largest ever undertaken at one time by an established major sports league. The expansion marked the first change in the composition of the league since 1942, thereby ending the era of the Original Six.

The WHA was founded in 1971 with ten teams, and intended to operate as a direct competitor to the NHL. By its inaugural season, 67 NHL players had defected to the new league. [3] Former Chicago Black Hawks star Bobby Hull lent immediate credibility to the fledgling circuit when he signed a 10-year contract with the Winnipeg Jets for $2.7 million, the largest in hockey history at the time. [4] The NHL attempted to block the defections in court, earning an injunction against the Jets that initially prevented several players, including Hull, from playing in the WHA. The new league challenged the orders, stating that the NHL's reserve clause, which tied players' rights to their NHL team for life, was illegal. [3] A Philadelphia district court sided with the WHA in November 1972, striking down the reserve clause and freeing all players to play in the WHA. The ruling ended the NHL's monopoly on talent. [3]

The 1972–73 WHA season was the first season of the World Hockey Association (WHA). Twelve teams played 78 games each. The league was officially incorporated in June of 1971 by Garry L. Davidson and Dennis A. Murphy and promised to ice twelve teams in various markets around Canada and the United States. The league championship trophy, the Avco World Trophy, was donated by AVCO Financial Services Corporation along with $500,000. The New England Whalers won the first Avco World Trophy.

Chicago Blackhawks hockey team of the National Hockey League

The Chicago Blackhawks are a professional ice hockey team based in Chicago, Illinois. They are members of the Central Division of the Western Conference of the National Hockey League (NHL). They have won six Stanley Cup championships since their founding in 1926. The Blackhawks are one of the "Original Six" NHL teams along with the Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins and New York Rangers. Since 1994, the club's home rink is the United Center, which they share with the National Basketball Association's Chicago Bulls. The club had previously played for 65 years at Chicago Stadium.

Bobby Hull Canadian ice hockey player

Robert Marvin Hull, OC is a Canadian former ice hockey player who is regarded as one of the greatest players of all time. His blonde hair, legendary skating speed, end to end rushes, and the ability to shoot the puck at very high velocity, were all a part of the player known as "The Golden Jet". His talents were such that one or two opposing players were often assigned just to shadow him—a tribute to his explosiveness.

The WHA also challenged the older league by placing teams in NHL markets, including the Philadelphia Blazers (Philadelphia Flyers), Vancouver Blazers (Vancouver Canucks), Toronto Toros (Toronto Maple Leafs), and Chicago Cougars (Chicago Black Hawks), among others. The WHA's existence led the NHL to hastily expand to Atlanta and Long Island in 1972 to keep the rival loop out of the newly-completed Omni Coliseum and Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. [5]

The Philadelphia Blazers were an ice hockey franchise in the World Hockey Association (WHA) for the 1972–73 WHA season based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. The team's home ice was the Philadelphia Convention Hall and Civic Center.

Philadelphia Flyers professional ice hockey team

The Philadelphia Flyers are a professional ice hockey team based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They are members of the Metropolitan Division of the Eastern Conference of the National Hockey League (NHL). Part of the 1967 NHL Expansion, the Flyers were the first expansion team in the post–Original Six era to win the Stanley Cup, victorious in 1973–74 and again in 1974–75.

Toronto Toros ice hockey team

The Toronto Toros were an ice hockey team based in Toronto, Ontario that played in the World Hockey Association from 1973 to 1976.

Merger talks

Merger talks between the two leagues had been ongoing since 1973, when NHL governors Bill Jennings of the New York Rangers and Ed Snider of the Philadelphia Flyers unsuccessfully approached the WHA and offered to have all 12 of its franchises join the NHL for $4 million each. [4] Attempts at reconciliation were frequently blocked by Toronto's Harold Ballard, Chicago's Bill Wirtz, and Boston's Paul A. Mooney, owners of the three NHL teams most affected by the WHA's player raids. [4] By 1976, however, both leagues were struggling under the financial pressures of competing against each other on the ice and in the courtroom. [3] Bobby Hull had become an outspoken proponent of a merger between the two leagues, [3] though Gordie Howe (the NHL's all-time scoring leader-turned-WHA player) and WHA president Bill MacFarland disagreed, arguing that the WHA was sustainable indefinitely. [3]

Long time NHL President Clarence Campbell was fiercely opposed to any union between the two leagues, saying, "They're our rivals. They were people that did their best to destroy us. Why would we salvage them now? To hell with them." [6] Despite this animosity, some NHL teams agreed to play preseason exhibition games against WHA opponents prior to the 1974–75 season. Campbell ordered this interleague play halted in 1975, but the following year, the NHL president (who by this time was facing both declining health and personal scandal) relented and interleague exhibition games resumed, although a few NHL clubs, including Montreal and Toronto, continued to boycott them.

Campbell retired in 1977, and his successor, John Ziegler (the NHL's first American chief executive), was more open to unification. Under Ziegler's presidency, interleague exhibition games became more common, eventually involving every NHL team except Los Angeles, Buffalo, Toronto, and Montreal. Merger negotiations also intensified, and continued to be conducted openly. The American teams were far less hostile to the idea of a merger than their Canadian counterparts. There were a number of reasons for this, but probably the most compelling was the Montreal Canadiens' dominance of the NHL during the years of the WHA's existence. The Canadiens won five of the seven Stanley Cups during this time, including four in a row from 1976 through 1979. The 1976–77 Canadiens in particular are widely considered to be the most dominant team in NHL history. Montreal owed this success in large part to its ability to better resist WHA efforts to lure away its players (a notable exception being J.C. Tremblay, who left the Canadiens to play for the WHA's Quebec Nordiques), and many American teams believed they were able to do this because Canadian Hockey Night in Canada television revenues were mostly distributed among the three Canadian teams instead of across the league. Hence, adding Canadian teams would lessen the financial advantage that teams like the Canadiens had. Also, both NHL and WHA owners realized that the Canadian markets were a vital economic base, both to the WHA and any future rival league that might take its place. Absorbing the Canadian markets would therefore preclude the possibility of the NHL having to fight off another rival league.

However, American support for a merger was based on the assumption that all existing NHL teams would share the expansion fees equally; this did not go over well with the league's Canadian owners. The objection was not without precedent; in 1970, Montreal and Toronto had only agreed to support Vancouver's addition to the NHL after they were paid indemnities for the inclusion of the Canucks in the Hockey Night in Canada television deal. Although the three Canadian teams could not block a merger on their own, the fact that any deal needed three-quarters support among the NHL owners meant that the Canadian teams only needed two American clubs to side with them to block any agreement.

In June 1977, Ziegler announced that the NHL had created a committee to investigate the possibility of a merger, while Bill DeWitt, Jr., owner of the WHA's Cincinnati Stingers, stated that Ziegler had invited six WHA teams to join the NHL for the 1977–78 season if various conditions could be met. This proposal would have seen the six teams become full NHL members, but play in their own division with a separate schedule for the first year. [7]

Led by Toronto's Harold Ballard, the owners voted down Ziegler's proposal. [3] The Calgary Cowboys, who had hoped to be one of the six teams to join the NHL, subsequently folded, as did the Phoenix Roadrunners, Minnesota Fighting Saints, and San Diego Mariners. This reduced the WHA to eight teams for the 1977–78 WHA season, and left its long-term future in doubt. [8]

1978 revised agreement

Cities that hosted NHL and WHA teams at the time of the NHL-WHA merger in 1979 NHLWHAmerger.png
Cities that hosted NHL and WHA teams at the time of the NHL-WHA merger in 1979

The intense competition between the leagues did not leave the NHL unscathed. The Pittsburgh Penguins filed for bankruptcy in 1975 and nearly moved to Seattle before they found stable ownership with shopping mall magnate Edward J. DeBartolo Sr., a native of nearby Youngstown, Ohio who decided to keep the team in Pittsburgh. The California Golden Seals and Kansas City Scouts weren't as lucky, as both teams would move for 1976, with the Golden Seals becoming the Cleveland Barons and the Scouts the Colorado Rockies after only two years in Kansas City. By 1978 it faced the possibility of two of its teams (the Minnesota North Stars and Barons) folding. Ziegler was able to mitigate the damage by arranging a merger between the two clubs; the Barons remain the most recent example of an American professional sports team in an established major league ceasing operations.

Merger discussions resumed in 1978, and it again appeared that the Houston Aeros, as one of the league's strongest teams, were an obvious candidate to join the NHL. Unfortunately for Houston, by this time Ziegler realized NHL owners would never vote to admit six teams, and floated a proposal that would admit four WHA franchises. The WHA responded by insisting that all three of its Canadian teams be included in the merger. This left room for only one American team, with the only serious contenders for that spot being the Aeros and Whalers. Aeros owner Kenneth Schnitzer attempted to persuade Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs to support a merger that included the Aeros and not the Bruins' neighbors based in Hartford, only to find that Jacobs, as one of the older league's most hard-line owners, was opposed to any sort of merger with the WHA and that Ziegler was cool to the idea of adding another Sun Belt NHL team. Of the three Sun Belt teams that had joined the league since 1967, one (the Golden Seals) had already relocated and two (the Los Angeles Kings and Atlanta Flames) were struggling financially.

During the final series of talks, it soon became evident that no merger of any sort would take place in time for the 1978-79 NHL season. It was also apparent that when there was a merger, the Aeros were not likely to be included. Schnitzer announced that the Aeros would not take part in the 1978-79 WHA season. He first applied for direct admission to the NHL, only to find the older league uninterested in such an expansion with so many of its existing franchises struggling. Finally, Schnitzer campaigned to be allowed to purchase an existing club and relocate it to Houston. The obvious candidate to move was the Barons (the former Seals), who were on the verge of folding. Schnitzer believed the older league would accept almost any other proposal as an alternative to the perceived embarrassment of having to disband a franchise, and did come close to a deal to relocate the moribund Barons franchise to Houston. However, the NHL instead opted to approve a proposal from George and Gordon Gund (the owners of the Barons) to buy the North Stars franchise and "merge" it with their own. Having run out of options, Schnitzer folded the Aeros on July 9, 1978. In doing so, the Aeros became the only WHA champion that did not eventually join the NHL.

Discussion between the two leagues intensified into the 1978–79 season, when the WHA made an offer to have five teams join the NHL the following year, paying $5 million each for the right to join. Although the WHA offer was not accepted, Ziegler was encouraged, stating that owners were beginning to view the negotiations from a business standpoint rather than an emotional one. [3] The WHA then lost the Indianapolis Racers after only 25 games, reducing the league to six teams, the lowest in league history. [3]

Final agreement

With the WHA facing financial difficulty and unable to meet payrolls, the two leagues reached an agreement to merge in March 1979, pending ratification by the NHL's owners. The NHL originally wanted to take in the New England Whalers, Winnipeg Jets, and Edmonton Oilers. The owners of the Cincinnati Stingers and Birmingham Bulls were resigned to their exclusion from the merger, but the Quebec Nordiques fought the proposal. The NHL's American teams were less enthusiastic about including Quebec than they were about Edmonton and Winnipeg, and Ziegler thought that the Canadiens might be persuaded to support the merger if the Nordiques were excluded.

Nevertheless, the WHA insisted on including all three of its surviving Canadian teams in the merger and Ziegler finally agreed to put the matter to a vote of the NHL's Board of Governors. [9] At a meeting in Key Largo, Florida, 12 of the 17 owners supported the proposal – one short of the required three-fourths majority (13 teams out of 17 would have represented 76.5% of the league, just past that threshold, but as the vote stood, it only represented 70.6%). [4] The five teams that voted against the merger were the Canadiens, Vancouver Canucks, Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Los Angeles Kings. [9]

The five teams that cast a "no" ballot did so for different reasons. The Bruins were not pleased with the prospect of sharing New England with the Whalers, while the Canadiens were even less enamored with having to share the province of Quebec with the Nordiques. The Canadiens, Canucks, and Maple Leafs disliked the idea of having to split Hockey Night in Canada revenues six ways rather than three, while the Canucks and Kings feared the loss of dates with NHL teams from the east. [4] [9] Maple Leafs' owner Ballard had a personal grudge as well; he had never forgiven the WHA for plundering his roster in the early 1970s.

The Canadiens were owned by Molson Brewery, and when news emerged that the Canadiens had voted against the deal, fans in Edmonton, Winnipeg, and Quebec City organized a boycott of Molson products, believing that Molson was standing in the way of their cities remaining big-league hockey towns. [9] The boycott quickly spread nationwide. It caused a drain on the Canucks' revenue as well, since Pacific Coliseum sold Molson products. The House of Commons of Canada weighed in as well, unanimously passing a motion urging the NHL to reconsider. A second vote was held in Chicago on March 22, 1979, which passed by a 14–3 margin as both Montreal and Vancouver reversed their positions. [4] Both teams' hands were forced by the boycott, and the Canucks were also won over by the promise of a balanced schedule, with each team playing the others twice at home and twice on the road. [9]

The agreement resulted in the Oilers, Whalers, Nordiques, and Jets joining the NHL for the 1979–80 NHL season. However, the NHL insisted on treating the WHA teams' arrival as an expansion, not a merger. The WHA teams each had to pay a $6 million franchise fee for the right to enter the NHL [3] – however, since this was nominally the same fee paid by all of the other teams that joined the NHL in the 1970s (a decade of high inflation), the financial terms of the agreement were nominally quite favorable to the WHA although some of the teams that joined earlier in the decade received concessions on their fees. [10] The two remaining WHA teams, the Stingers and Bulls, were paid $1.5 million apiece in parachute payments and joined the Central Hockey League, the league-owned minor league, for one season each. [3] [9] The Stingers folded after 33 games; the Bulls played two full seasons before folding. The NHL has never returned to Cincinnati or Birmingham, though it did place teams in the nearby markets of Columbus and Nashville in the late 1990s.

The rest of the agreement was slanted heavily in the NHL's favour. The NHL held a reclamation draft for the established clubs, in which nearly all of the players who had bolted from the NHL and were still active in the WHA saw their rights revert to their NHL clubs without compensation. (Some exceptions were made: hockey legends Gordie Howe of the Whalers and Bobby Hull of the Jets were allowed to remain with those clubs rather than report to their old NHL teams, the Red Wings and Blackhawks, respectively.) The WHA clubs were stripped of nearly all of their players; for all intents and purposes, they were effectively dissolved and had to rebuild their rosters from scratch. However, in one of the few concessions to the WHA teams, they were allowed to protect two goalies and two skaters. Even more controversial was the NHL's insistence that the four new teams be placed at the bottom of the order for the 1979 NHL Entry Draft. Historically, the NHL slots expansion teams at or near the top in an entry draft. In what was not a complete coincidence, the NHL also lowered the draft age by two years, effectively tripling the size and depth of the talent pool in the 1979 draft. The former WHA teams were restocked via the 1979 NHL Expansion Draft with the established NHL teams receiving $125,000 per player taken in that draft. However. these payments formed part of the former WHA teams' $6 million franchise fees. [11] Additionally, a good number of players on the list were either retired or of little value; years later Oilers coach/general manager Glen Sather said that the WHA teams knew this, but went along only because they had to participate. [9]

As the league considered the agreement to be an expansion as opposed to a merger, it refused to recognize WHA records. The four new NHL franchises were essentially regarded as new entities, not as continuations of the former WHA franchises. The Canadian teams were permitted to operate under their established names, colors, logos and front office personnel, however, to appease and satisfy the Bruins, the NHL insisted that the Whalers drop "New England" from their name and they entered the league as the "Hartford Whalers" instead. The NHL continues to recognize all four franchises as having been founded on June 22, 1979, which is also the date the WHA is reckoned to have formally ceased to exist.


The NHL had originally intended to place one of the former WHA teams in each of its four divisions (then called the Adams, Norris, Patrick and Smythe), but the Oilers and Jets lobbied to be placed in the same division as the Canucks. The league agreed, although its decision to play a balanced league-wide schedule rendered the divisional alignment irrelevant for the first two seasons following the merger. Nevertheless, the divisions were formally retained.

Although the WHA clubs had performed quite well against their NHL rivals in pre-merger exhibition games (of 63 such games played, the WHA won 34, lost 22 and tied 7) [12] they were nevertheless expected to struggle on the ice after the merger due to the purging of their rosters. However, the NHL also expanded the Stanley Cup playoffs from 12 teams to 16. This allowed the Whalers and Oilers to qualify for the playoffs in their first post-merger season although both teams were swept in the first round. The following year, the Oilers became the first former WHA team to win a playoff series when they swept the heavily favoured Canadiens.


In its seven seasons, the WHA paid its players $120 million, and lost over $50 million. [13] The competition for talent introduced by the WHA, and accelerated by the signing of Bobby Hull, led to a rapid escalation of salaries for players in both leagues. For the first time, hockey players had meaningful leverage in contract negotiations. [14]

In its search for talent, the WHA turned to the previously overlooked European market, signing players from Finland and Sweden. Anders Hedberg, Lars-Erik Sjoberg, and Ulf Nilsson signed with the Jets in 1974 and thrived in North America, both in the WHA and later the NHL. [11] The Jets won three of the six remaining WHA championships after signing European players, and their success sparked similar signings league-wide. Many of these players went on to NHL careers.

Of the four WHA teams that joined the NHL, only the Edmonton Oilers remain in their WHA city today. The other three franchises all moved within a three-year period in the 1990s: the Nordiques became the Colorado Avalanche in 1995, the Jets became the Phoenix Coyotes in 1996, and the Whalers (renamed the Hartford Whalers upon admission to the NHL in 1979) became the Carolina Hurricanes in 1997. The Oilers nearly followed the other three teams south the following year after financially strapped owner Peter Pocklington received an offer from a buyer in Houston, but a local ownership group was able to assemble the financing needed to keep the team in Edmonton. The Oilers were eventually acquired by Edmonton-based billionaire Daryl Katz, who became sole owner of the franchise in 2008. In 2016, the Oilers opened their new arena, Rogers Place, replacing the antiquated Northlands Coliseum, which had been their home since 1974.

Of the three cities to have lost their WHA/NHL teams, only Winnipeg has received one back when the Atlanta Thrashers relocated there in 2011. The Oilers are the only WHA team to win the Stanley Cup while in their WHA city, which they have done on five occasions (1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, and 1990). The Avalanche won the Stanley Cup in 1996, their first year after leaving Quebec, and won a second Cup in 2001. The Hurricanes won their only Stanley Cup in 2006, their ninth year after leaving Hartford. The Jets/Coyotes franchise has never appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals, and has advanced to the second playoff round only three times (1985, 1987, 2012) and the conference final once (2012).

Notwithstanding the NHL's non-recognition of WHA records, all four surviving WHA teams subsequently retired at least one jersey number in recognition of on-ice endeavors achieved exclusively or primarily in the WHA. The three teams that re-located in the 1990s took different approaches with respect to the retired numbers - both Colorado and Carolina disclaimed their teams' pre-relocation histories in both the WHA and NHL and re-entered all previously retired numbers into circulation, regardless of league (although notably, the Hurricanes have never issued the #9 worn by Gordie Howe and retired by the Whalers). On the other hand, the Coyotes decided to hang all previously retired Jets' numbers in the rafters including, notably, the #9 of Bobby Hull notwithstanding the fact Hull only played 18 games for the Jets in their first NHL season (the last of his career). In doing so, the Coyotes implicitly recognized the Winnipeg Jets' entire history from 1972 to 1996 as their own. The Coyotes later temporarily un-retired #9 so Hull's son Brett could wear it for the final five games of his NHL career. By the time the NHL returned to Winnipeg, the league had taken over the Coyotes following bankruptcy and had even entertained an offer from the eventual Thrashers' purchasers to return the Coyotes to Manitoba. The league therefore had to decide whether to allow the former Thrashers to reclaim the Jets' name and history. In the end, the NHL decided to allow Winnipeg to reclaim its former name, but not its pre-1996 history. The pre-1996 Jets history therefore remained with the Arizona franchise while the Winnipeg franchise retained the Thrashers' history; aside from Gretzky's number 99 that was retired league-wide in 2000, the Thrashers did not officially retire any numbers while in Atlanta, though they did remove 37 from circulation following the death of Dan Snyder. (The number, with Snyder's family's blessing, returned to circulation in 2016.) The "new" Jets immediately and controversially recognized the league's decision by re-issuing Hull's #9 to Evander Kane, who had worn the same number with the Thrashers.

The merger led the league to reconsider other Canadian cities it had previously rejected placing franchises in. One year after the merger, the Atlanta Flames relocated to Calgary, becoming archrivals of the Oilers in the process. In 1992, the NHL added an expansion franchise in Ottawa. Both of these teams remain in their respective cities. However, the league has repeatedly rejected bids to bring NHL franchises to the Canadian cities of Hamilton and Saskatoon.

See also

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History of the National Hockey League (1967–1992)

The expansion era of the National Hockey League (NHL) began when six new teams were added for the 1967–68 season, ending the Original Six era. The six existing teams were grouped into the newly created East Division, and the expansion teams—the Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota North Stars, Oakland Seals, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and St. Louis Blues—formed the West Division.

The World Hockey Association General Player Draft was held over the course of two days, February 12 and February 13, 1972, in Anaheim, California. The purpose of the draft was to establish an orderly process through which WHA teams would stock their rosters by the beginning of their inaugural season later that year. As such, players from other professional teams were eligible to be drafted. The draftees were not under any legal obligation to sign with the drafting WHA club: other WHA clubs were prevented from negotiating with the players who had been drafted.

The National Hockey League (NHL) has undergone several rounds of expansion and other organizational changes during its 100-year history to reach its current thirty-one teams: twenty-four in the United States, and seven in Canada. The league is in the process of a two-team expansion, which added the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017 and an as-yet unnamed Seattle NHL team set to begin play in 2021, at which point the league will have thirty-two teams. The league's most recent relocation was in 2011, when the former Atlanta Thrashers relocated to become the second and current incarnation of the Winnipeg Jets.

Since being founded in 1917, the National Hockey League (NHL), which in its first two seasons started out as a three-team league and eventually grew to thirty-one in its current state, has expanded and contracted numerous times throughout its history. The following is a complete history of organizational changes in the NHL.

The Battle of Quebec is a former National Hockey League (NHL) rivalry between the Montreal Canadiens and Quebec Nordiques. The rivalry lasted from 1979–80 to 1994–95. The teams played against each other five times in the NHL playoffs, and the Canadiens won three of the series. One meeting in 1984 resulted in the Good Friday Massacre, a game in which multiple brawls happened. The Battle of Quebec extended to politics, in which the Canadiens and Nordiques became symbols for rival parties, and beer distribution, as the teams were both owned by competing breweries.


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Further reading