Forgotten Franchises: The WHA’s Philadelphia/Vancouver Blazers

The Philadelphia Blazers were one of the 12 teams which played in the WHA’s first season… but was not, technically, an original franchise.

That’s because the original plan was to have a team in south Florida called the Miami Screaming Eagles, but due to arena and money issues, that team never took the ice. Instead, the franchise was transferred to Philadelphia to compete for fans with the then-6-year-old Flyers team.

While the franchise was still in Miami, they signed two prominent NHL players; goalie Bernie Parent…

…And center Derek Sanderson.

Both Sanderson and the Blazers realized a mistake had been made, and after 8 games, the Blazers paid Sanderson off to void his contract.  Sanderson went back to the Boston Bruins.

Bernie Parent, meanwhile, had a contract dispute one game into the playoffs and would declared himself a free agent.  The Blazers would trade his WHA rights to the New York Golden Blades, while his NHL rights belonged to the Maple Leafs, the team he left when he jumped to the WHA.   Parent said that he’d only jump back to the NHL if he could play in Philly, so the Leafs traded his rights to the Flyers and he signed for less money than he could’ve gotten from the Golden Blades.

Getting back to the Blazers… In 1972/73, the team went 38-40-0, finished third in the East Division and got swept in the first round by the Cleveland Crusaders.

After that inaugural season, the team was sold to a new owner who moved the team to Vancouver; On the plus side, the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks were even less established than the Flyers, having been in place since the 1970-71 season. Unfortunately for the Blazers, they would share an arena with their NHL counterpart.

In order to compete with the Canucks, the Blazers owner tried – and failed – to lure Phil Esposito away from the Bruins.

Without Espo, the Vancouver Blazers finished 5th in West Division with a 27-50-1 record and did not make the playoffs.

In the third season, the Blazers again missed the playoffs by finishing 4th in the new Canadian Division with a 37-39-2 record. After two seasons in Vancouver, the team moved to Alberta and become the Calgary Cowboys. Two years after that, the franchise folded.

Other notable Blazers included Butch Deadmarsh, Andre Lacroix, who lead the league in points that first year before being traded, and most surprisingly to me, Hockey Hall-of-famer and Hart Trophy winner Andy Bathgate. Bathgate coached the team during part of the 1973/74 season, and would briefly come out of retirement at age 42 and play 11 games for the Vancouver Blazers in 1974/75


8 thoughts on “Forgotten Franchises: The WHA’s Philadelphia/Vancouver Blazers

  1. I love old WHA stuff. It’s a treasure trove of star-crossed deals and obscure franchises. Post suggestion: Ottawa Nationals.

  2. LOVE these posts. I had no idea that Bathgate came out of retirement to play a few games for them. Looking forward to your next one for sure, Nationals seem as good a suggestion as any!

    • I’ve mellowed thru the years and stuff that riled me up decades back seems silly now but I swear……If i live to be 200 I’ll still get stomach cramps at the sight of Sanderson in a Rangers sweater. ;-)

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