The World Hockey Association (WHA) has always seemed like a league from another universe to me… Even though I was a kid at the time and completely aware of hockey, you never heard a single word about it in the firmly NHL-saturated area I grew up in.
Perhaps because of that I’ve always been drawn to WHA cards that show players in unfamililar uniforms. I mean, every hockey fan knows the Jets and Oilers, and anyone who’s been around a bit knows the Nordiques and Whalers. I like to pick up the cards that picture the teams which were the casualties of the great NHL-WHA War.
Both of the cards in this post are from the 1977-78 WHA set.
The Uniform: The card identifies Robbie Ftorek with the Cincinnati Stingers, but the uniform pictured is from the Phoenix Roadrunners, a team which folded after the prior season was over. I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ve long been amused by the fact that Phoenix’ two hockey teams were they Coyotes and the Roadrunners. Meep meep!
It took me a while with this card before I realized that the white shape behind the roadrunner is the state of Arizona. I guess maybe it’d be more obvious if I lived there, but I’m sorry, Arizona is not one of those states with a distinctive silhouette.
The player: Robbie Ftorek had been the league’s MVP in that final season for the Roadrunners. He had 46 goals and 71 assists in that 1976-77 season.
The uniform: The Los Angeles Sharks were one of the original 12 WHA teams. Looking back at that through 21st century eyes, starting with 12 teams was a pretty darn aggressive business plans, considering that the NHL didn’t have a whole lot more than that at the time (especially if you disregard the teams that were brought about as a response to the WHA).
When this card came out, it’d been 2 years since the Sharks moved to Detroit and then later folded. The card helpfully points out “NOW WITH QUEBEC NORDIQUES”, ignoring the fact that Tardif had been traded to the Nordiques nearly 3 years prior.
The Player: Marc Tardif was twice the WHA’s MVP (on either side of Ftorek), both times while with the Quebec Nordiques. He would also play for the Nordiques in the NHL, but not at the level of success he had in the WHA.