WHA was the real deal: Bobby Hull

Hall of Famer Bobby Hull.

Hall of Famer Bobby Hull.

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

WINNIPEG - Sure, it had more than its share of questionable owners and bush-league antics over the years.

But the WHA also deserves some credit, which to this day is hard to find  in some NHL circles.

"They wouldn't even let me be a Winnipeg Jet for those eight short years," Bobby Hull said of the naysayers. " 'No, you weren't anything but a Blackhawk' — that's how they still think. That the WHA was nothing."

Forty years after it beat the odds and got off the ground, Hull is quick to fire back with some evidence to the contrary.

"We were the only club team that beat the Red Army team," Hull said of that famous 1978 game between the Soviet powerhouse and the Winnipeg Jets. "We had some great players that came out of there. I think a kid by the name of Gretzky got his start in Indianapolis.

"A lot of good came out of it. When push came to shove, there were four teams left in the WHA: Edmonton, Quebec, New England (Hartford) and Winnipeg. They were four strong teams, and when the two leagues finally got together, out of the top-20 scorers in the NHL that year, 10 of them were out of the WHA."

Hull can still recite much of the roster of that first Jets team, a ragtag bunch that wasn't loaded with NHL-caliber players but that came together and reached the league final.

"Everyone played their guts out for me," Hull said. "And I wondered why they had never been given a chance to play in the National Hockey League."

Hull himself managed 51 goals that first season in the WHA, after scoring 50 in his last year with the Blackhawks.


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