WHA: Goal to remember for Anderson

Ron Anderson of the Alberta Oilers, later the Edmonton Oilers, scored the first goal in the World...

Ron Anderson of the Alberta Oilers, later the Edmonton Oilers, scored the first goal in the World Hockey Association's first game against the Ottawa Nationals. Greig Archives

MURRAY GREIG, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:15 PM ET

Ron Anderson remembers scoring the WHA’s very first goal like it happened yesterday.

Well ... sort of.

On Oct. 11, 1972, playing right wing on the Alberta Oilers’ first line with centre Jim Harrison and left winger Bob McAneeley, Anderson beat Ottawa Nationals goalie Les Binkley at 6:19 of the opening period of the inaugural game, in front of 5,065 fans at the Ottawa Civic Centre.

The Oilers — who switched from ‘Alberta’ to ‘Edmonton’ the next season — went on to notch a 7-4 victory in the game, which was televised nationally on CBC.

“I got the puck behind our net, stickhandled through all five Ottawa guys, then whipped a wrist shot high over the goalie’s glove hand … he never moved,” Anderson, 67, chuckled from his home in Calgary.

“That’s how I like to remember it today, anyway.

“The truth is, I whacked at a bouncing puck out near the Ottawa blue line and it kind of floated and knuckle-balled all the way into the net. If the goalie had seen it, he could’ve stopped it with a fly swatter.”

Did the significance of the moment register?

“Not really; we knew it was the first WHA game and all that, but we were just trying to win the damn thing,” said Anderson, who jumped to the Oilers from the Buffalo Sabres.

He retired from hockey in 1975 and now owns a golf club repair business.

Anderson potted another goal in the third period, while Jim Harrison, Ron Walters and Eddie Joyal also scored for the Oilers. Bob Charlebois (2), Wayne Carleton and Guy Trottier replied for Ottawa.

In goal for the Oilers that night was future Edmonton Sun advertising manager Ken Brown. A month later, after a U.S. court declared the NHL’s reserve clause invalid, thereby opening the door for more players to jump to the WHA, Brown penned a letter to blackballed baseball star Curt Flood, who had written a book challenging the reserve clause that had basically turned pro sports into legal slavery.

“I was so moved by Flood’s story that I wrote him a letter of thanks for being the first pro athlete to challenge the old system,” Brown recalled.

“His fight made me realize how important the WHA would be to the future of hockey.”

murray.greig@sunmedia.ca


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