Friday, October 11, 2013

The 1979 NHL 'Expansion' Draft

If you're relatively new to hockey and you've just begun your own journey into pro hockey history you may have decided to look up the origins of the NHL's current clubs, and you may have noticed that four clubs joined the NHL in 1979: the Edmonton Oilers, Hartford Whalers (who moved to North Carolina in 1997 and became today's Carolina Hurricanes), Quebec Nordiques (who moved to Denver in 1995 and became the Colorado Avalanche) and Winnipeg Jets (who moved to Phoenix in 1996 and became the Phoenix Coyotes, and are related only in name to today's Winnipeg Jets). Nominally this was an expansion according to NHL sources like the "Official Guide and Record Book", but the story is more complicated than that.

Being that it's complicated, it's a long story. Better authors have written entire books about the subject so I will strive to provide only enough information to give context to the events around the 1979 NHL Expansion Draft.

The Oilers, Whalers, Nordiques and Jets were not really expansion teams (in much the same way the California Seals and Vancouver Canucks weren't really expansion teams either, but I'll save those stories for another time). They were members of another league before joining the NHL: the World Hockey Association.

The WHA was an entirely new league founded in 1971 by Gary Davidson and Dennis Murphy. Their purpose was to directly challenge the NHL's supremacy over all the other hockey leagues in North America. To accomplish that goal they sold franchises to businessmen in cities that weren't considered suitable for NHL expansion in the late '60s and early '70s, including cities like Cleveland, Edmonton, Houston, Miami, Ottawa, Quebec City and Winnipeg. Some of these teams never took to the ice (Miami), some failed within a year or two (Ottawa), and some lasted more than a couple years but ultimately moved or folded (Cleveland, Houston).

Murphy and Davidson were not new to this sort of thing. They founded the American Basketball Association in 1967, a league which would compete directly with the National Basketball Association for supremacy in pro basketball. Arguably they were following the lead of the American Football League, founded in 1959 to challenge the established National Football League. The AFL and NFL agreed to merge in 1966 and in effect the AFL's club owners had insinuated themselves into NFL membership without having to pay exorbitant expansion fees. The idea behind the ABA and WHA was the same: establish a new league, compete with the old league, and eventually merge with the old league.

The ABA merged with the NBA in 1976, with four of the ABA clubs in effect joining the NBA. The leagues had pursued merger negotiations as early as 1970 however they were unable to effect a merger because of a lawsuit filed by player Oscar Robertson, who contended that a merged ABA and NBA would be a monopoly on pro basketball and would violate anti-trust legislation. (The NFL-AFL merger was exempted from US anti-trust legislation by US congressional approval, and Major League Baseball has had a long-standing exemption.)

The AFL-NFL merger was essentially a merger of equals, with neither league really having the upper hand over the other (save for territorial indemnifications the AFL's Raiders owed the NFL's 49ers and AFL's Jets owed the NFL's Giants). The ABA-NBA merger clearly favoured the NBA—two ABA teams were paid to fold and the ABA teams that joined the NBA accepted several caveats such as not being able to vote on certain matters at league meetings and not receiving income from the pooled television contract revenues for a period of time—but the ABA-NBA relationship was not particularly acrimonious. Not like the NHL and WHA.

There was outright hostility between the NHL and WHA. They took each other to court several times in the first few years of the WHA's existence over player rights. Competition with the WHA directly and indirectly affected NHL policies and business plans throughout the 1970s. Merger negotiations between the two leagues began as early as 1973 however serious negotiations wouldn't happen until after Clarence Campbell stepped down as NHL President and John Ziegler replaced him in 1977. The WHA had caused player salaries in the NHL to rise dramatically and this rise in the cost of doing business was threatening the existence of several NHL clubs. By 1978 the Barons and North Stars were at immediate risk of folding altogether but one was saved at the expense of the other in a last-minute agreement to merge the two franchises. (See the 1978 NHL Dispersal Draft.)

In the spring of 1979, after long negotiation sessions between the two leagues' representatives, they finally came to an agreement to merge. The WHA's Edmonton Oilers, New England Whalers, Quebec Nordiques and Winnipeg Jets would join the NHL for the 1979-80 NHL season. The WHA's other remaining teams, the Birmingham Bulls and Cincinnati Stingers, would be indemnified for their exclusion and fold at the end of the 1978-79 WHA season.

The NHL owners were very particular about calling this an 'expansion' instead of a 'merger' because their 1975 collective bargaining agreement with the NHLPA contained a termination clause which would have gone into effect if the WHA 'merged' with the NHL.

The competition between the WHA and NHL in signing players had dramatically increased the average salary of pro hockey players and losing the WHA meant the players would lose the threat of 'defection' to the WHA as a bargaining chip in contract negotiations. If the collective bargaining agreement was terminated and a new one had to be negotiated the players wanted an end to restricted free agency (a prickly subject at the time; refer to the court case between the NHL and Dale McCourt mentioned below). In exchange for not terminating the CBA and more heavily pursuing an end to restricted free agency NHLPA Executive Director Alan Eagleson made overtures in the press about seeking half of the $24 million worth of expansion fees being charged to the Oilers, Whalers, Nordiques and Jets but ultimately the NHLPA settled for a modest bump in pension funding. (Players being transferred as compensation for free agent signings continued in the NHL until well into the 1990s.)

Being that these four new clubs were 'expansion' teams the NHL teams would be able to reclaim the rights of players who had 'defected' to the WHA as they saw fit, thus depleting the WHA teams' rosters and necessitating an 'expansion' draft to restock them. The expansion draft would also be used as justification for levying $6 million "expansion fees" from each of the WHA clubs. The Stingers would receive $3.2 million indemnification to fold, while the Bulls would receive $2.85 million; these indemnifications would be collectively paid by the Oilers, Whalers, Nordiques and Jets. The three new Canadian clubs would not receive revenue from the Hockey Night in Canada contract with the CBC for five seasons. The new clubs would be placed last in the draft order at the NHL Amateur Draft (which would later be renamed "Entry Draft" due to the fact several players that were eligible for selection had been playing professionally in the WHA). The league would play a balanced schedule: each team would play each other four times, regardless of divisional alignment (this was a concession to get the Vancouver Canucks to agree to the merger).

Supposedly one of the conditions of the agreement, imposed by the Boston Bruins, was that the New England Whalers change their name to Hartford Whalers. I haven't found a contemporary source to substantiate that; at the time (May 24, 1979) Whalers owner Howard Baldwin said the name change was made because of the support the citizens of Hartford had shown the Whalers since leaving Boston in 1974, the "idea of being in a capital city" and "a desire of the club to assure the area that the Whalers will be permanently based in Hartford". That last reason makes sense given the context that the Whalers were temporarily playing in Springfield, Massachusetts at the time because the roof of the Hartford Civic Center collapsed in 1978. They wouldn't return to Hartford until February, 1980. The idea that the Bruins insisted that the Whalers change their branding makes for an interesting story but as far as I can tell it's a tall tale. Besides, the Bruins were one of three dissenting NHL teams who did not agree to the merger. The merger approval vote at the NHL Board of Governors meeting required three-fourths majority, or 13 out of 17 clubs, and it was approved by a margin of 14 to three: the Bruins, Maple Leafs and Kings were the three dissenting votes. The Whalers didn't need to appease the Bruins.

The WHA would hold a dispersal draft after the 1978-79 season to disperse the players still under contract by the Bulls and Stingers to the four clubs joining the NHL. The WHA clubs would retain the rights to players that none of the existing NHL clubs laid claim. Players whose "NHL rights" were held by an existing NHL club could be 'reclaimed' by the NHL club from the WHA club with no compensation to the WHA club. The only exception to this was that the WHA club could make up to four "priority selections": they could pick up to two goaltenders and two other players whose rights were being reclaimed by an NHL club and retain those players' rights (the WHA club's claims would "take priority" over the NHL club's). A specific exemption was written into the merger agreement for Gordie Howe; he would not be eligible for reclaim and his rights would stay with the Whalers.

The rules of the expansion draft were:

  • the NHL clubs would each protect 15 skaters and two goaltenders,
  • if an NHL club lost more than one player as a "priority selection" then the number of players that NHL club could protect would be increased by the same. For example if NHL team 'X' lost two players as priority selections they could protect 16 skaters in the expansion draft, and would only lose three players in the expansion draft. If team 'X' lost three players as priority selections then they would protect 17 skaters, and only lose two players in the expansion draft.
  • the NHL teams could only lose up to four players (barring the exemptions caused by priority selections explained above). Being that there were 17 NHL clubs and four 'expansion' clubs the draft would last 17 rounds.
  • each selection would cost the 'expansion' club $125,000 (to be deducted from the $6 million expansion fee),
  • each selection would be followed by a fill-in choice by the NHL club that lost a player,
  • Dale McCourt would be exempted from the draft altogether. He would not be eligible for claim by an expansion club nor would he have to be protected by the club that held his rights. This was due to uncertainties surrounding the rights to McCourt as a result of the lawsuit he filed against the NHL, NHLPA, Los Angeles Kings and Detroit Red Wings in 1978 (McCourt v. California Sports, Inc., 460 F. Supp. 904 - Dist. Court, ED Michigan 1978). After an arbitrator awarded him to the Kings as compensation for the Red Wings' free agent signing of Rogie Vachon McCourt won an injunction to stay with the Red Wings, but the NHL appealed and the case was still under appeal at the time the merger was agreed to. (The NHL won the appeal and the verdict was handed down in May 1979, before the expansion draft, but McCourt's exemption from the draft stayed in place. McCourt was ultimately traded back to the Red Wings by the Kings before the 1979-80 season began, and in effect it was as though McCourt was never transferred to the Kings in the first place.)

WHA Dispersal Draft

The WHA's Dispersal Draft, the league's final act to disperse the defunct Cincinnati Stingers and Birmingham Bulls players among the four surviving clubs, took place on June 1, 1979. I haven't been able to find a detailed list of rules but I have found sources that say Robbie Ftorek went first overall to the Quebec Nordiques as a "bonus pick". What that means precisely I don't know. I suspect it may have had to do with the fact that Ftorek was one of the WHA's star players and he had a long, well-paying contract. Perhaps the teams agreed that Ftorek would go to whomever volunteered to take on his salary. The first round of selections was reportedly Bob Stephenson to the Whalers, Mike Liut to the Oilers, Barry Melrose to the Nordiques and Peter Marsh to the Jets, in that order. The full list of players chosen is as follows. They are in no particular order. The player's former team is noted in parentheses; '(B)' for Birmingham Bulls, '(C)' for Cincinnati Stingers and '(I)' for Indianapolis Racers. Reportedly Dave Fortier, Bruce Greig and Al McLeod of the defunct Indianapolis Racers were also included in the proceedings, despite the remaining Racers players being declared free agents when the team folded in December, 1978. As far as I know Fortier and McLeod never played pro hockey again after 1978-79 while Greig reported to the Edmonton Oilers' IHL affiliate in Dayton for '79-'80. He never played in the NHL again.

Edmonton OilersHartford WhalersQuebec NordiquesWinnipeg Jets
Mike Liut (C)Bob Stephenson (B)Robbie Ftorek (C)Peter Marsh (C)
Bryon Baltimore (C)Byron Shutt (C)Barry Melrose (C)Jamie Hislop (C)
Reg Thomas (C)Steve Alley (B)Bill Gilligan (C)Barry Legge (C)
Bryan Watson (C)Tony Cassolato (B)Paul Stewart (C)Craig Norwich (C)
Dave Forbes (C)Paul Henderson (B)Michel Dion (C)
Kelly Davis (C)Al McLeod (I)Dave Dornseif (C)
Michel Parizeau (C)Peter Marrin (B)
Dave Fortier (I)Greg Tebbutt (B)
Bruce Greig (I)John C. Stewart (B)

Several other Bulls and Stingers players weren't included and were declared eligible for the 1979 NHL Entry Draft, including the Bulls' Rob Ramage, Rick Vaive, Michel Goulet, Gaston Gingras and Pat Riggin, and the Stingers' Mike Gartner and Mark Messier. These players had not been drafted by any NHL teams before and were still of 'junior' age.

NHL Reclamation

About 100 of the four WHA teams' players had their rights held by an NHL team by virtue of having been drafted or having played for the NHL team in the past. The following is as complete a list as I could compile of the WHA players whose rights were also owned by an NHL team prior to the expansion draft and player reclamation. These are the players who could have been reclaimed by their respective NHL clubs. (Former WHA teams prior to the WHA dispersal are noted in parentheses where applicable.)

PlayerNHL teamWHA team
Dale HogansonAtlanta FlamesQuebec Nordiques
Kent NilssonAtlanta FlamesWinnipeg Jets
Jeff BrubakerBoston BruinsHartford Whalers
George BuatBoston BruinsEdmonton Oilers
Mark HoweBoston BruinsHartford Whalers
Rich LeducBoston BruinsQuebec Nordiques
Ron PlumbBoston BruinsHartford Whalers
Dave DrydenBuffalo SabresEdmonton Oilers
Al HamiltonBuffalo SabresEdmonton Oilers
François LacombeBuffalo SabresQuebec Nordiques
Steve AlleyChicago Black HawksHartford Whalers
(Birmingham Bulls)
Real CloutierChicago Black HawksQuebec Nordiques
Dave DebolChicago Black HawksCincinnati Stingers
John GarrettChicago Black HawksHartford Whalers
Bobby HullChicago Black HawksWinnipeg Jets
Andre LacroixChicago Black HawksHartford Whalers
Floyd LahacheChicago Black HawksCincinnati Stingers
Terry RuskowskiChicago Black HawksWinnipeg Jets
Reg ThomasChicago Black HawksQuebec Nordiques
(Cincinnati Stingers)
Doug BerryColorado RockiesEdmonton Oilers
Paul TerbencheColorado RockiesWinnipeg Jets
Wes GeorgeDetroit Red WingsEdmonton Oilers
Pierre GuitéDetroit Red WingsEdmonton Oilers
Glenn HicksDetroit Red WingsWinnipeg Jets
Gordie Howe1Detroit Red WingsHartford Whalers
Marty HoweDetroit Red WingsHartford Whalers
Barry LongDetroit Red WingsWinnipeg Jets
George LyleDetroit Red WingsHartford Whalers
Bryon BaltimoreLos Angeles KingsEdmonton Oilers
(Cincinnati Stingers)
Serge BernierLos Angeles KingsQuebec Nordiques
Steve CarlsonLos Angeles KingsEdmonton Oilers
Blair MacDonaldLos Angeles KingsEdmonton Oilers
Joe DaleyMinnesota North StarsWinnipeg Jets
Eddie MioMinnesota North StarsEdmonton Oilers
Cal SandbeckMinnesota North StarsEdmonton Oilers
Dave SemenkoMinnesota North StarsEdmonton Oilers
Paul ShmyrMinnesota North StarsEdmonton Oilers
Greg TebbuttMinnesota North StarsQuebec Nordiques
(Birmingham Bulls)
Tom WebsterMinnesota North StarsHartford Whalers
Ron CarterMontreal CanadiensEdmonton Oilers
Alain CôtéMontreal CanadiensQuebec Nordiques
Richard DavidMontreal CanadiensQuebec Nordiques
Dan GeoffrionMontreal CanadiensQuebec Nordiques
Alan HanglesbenMontreal CanadiensHartford Whalers
Jamie HislopMontreal CanadiensWinnipeg Jets
(Cincinnati Stingers)
Dave HunterMontreal CanadiensEdmonton Oilers
Pierre LagacéMontreal CanadiensQuebec Nordiques
Barry LeggeMontreal CanadiensWinnipeg Jets
(Cincinnati Stingers)
Chuck LuksaMontreal CanadiensCincinnati Stingers2
Peter MarrinMontreal CanadiensQuebec Nordiques
(Birmingham Bulls)
Peter MarshMontreal CanadiensWinnipeg Jets
(Cincinnati Stingers)
Barry MelroseMontreal CanadiensQuebec Nordiques
(Cincinnati Stingers)
Joe MichelettiMontreal CanadiensEdmonton Oilers
Craig NorwichMontreal CanadiensWinnipeg Jets
(Cincinnati Stingers)
Gordie RobertsMontreal CanadiensHartford Whalers
Louis SleigherMontreal CanadiensBirmingham Bulls3
John C. StewartMontreal CanadiensQuebec Nordiques
(Birmingham Bulls)
Marc TardifMontreal CanadiensQuebec Nordiques
J.C. TremblayMontreal CanadiensQuebec Nordiques
Jim TurkewiczMontreal CanadiensBirmingham Bulls4
Dale YakiwchukMontreal CanadiensWinnipeg Jets
Richard BrodeurNew York IslandersQuebec Nordiques
Kelly DavisNew York IslandersEdmonton Oilers
(Cincinnati Stingers)
Dave InkpenNew York IslandersHartford Whalers
Dave LangevinNew York IslandersEdmonton Oilers
Garry LariviereNew York IslandersQuebec Nordiques
Markus MattssonNew York IslandersWinnipeg Jets
Jim DoreyNew York RangersQuebec Nordiques
Jim MayerNew York RangersEdmonton Oilers
Warren MillerNew York RangersHartford Whalers
Jim WarnerNew York RangersHartford Whalers
Serge BeaudoinPhiladelphia FlyersBirmingham Bulls5
Ron ChipperfieldPhiladelphia FlyersEdmonton Oilers
John McKenziePhiladelphia FlyersHartford Whalers
Dennis SobchukPhiladelphia FlyersEdmonton Oilers
Michel ParizeauPhiladelphia FlyersEdmonton Oilers6
(Cincinnati Stingers)
Paul BaxterPittsburgh PenguinsQuebec Nordiques
Kim ClacksonPittsburgh PenguinsWinnipeg Jets
Morris LukowichPittsburgh PenguinsWinnipeg Jets
Byron ShuttPittsburgh PenguinsHartford Whalers
(Cincinnati Stingers)
Christian BordeleauSt. Louis BluesQuebec Nordiques
Scott CampbellSt. Louis BluesWinnipeg Jets
Dave DornseifSt. Louis BluesQuebec Nordiques
(Cincinnati Stingers)
Mike LiutSt. Louis BluesEdmonton Oilers
(Cincinnati Stingers)
Risto SiltanenSt. Louis BluesEdmonton Oilers
Ernie WakelySt. Louis BluesBirmingham Bulls7
Jordy DouglasToronto Maple LeafsHartford Whalers
Peter DriscollToronto Maple LeafsEdmonton Oilers
Paul HendersonToronto Maple LeafsBirmingham Bulls8
Rick LeyToronto Maple LeafsHartford Whalers
Larry PleauToronto Maple LeafsHartford Whalers
Stan WeirToronto Maple LeafsEdmonton Oilers
John HughesVancouver CanucksEdmonton Oilers
Mike RogersVancouver CanucksHartford Whalers
Bengt-Åke GustafssonWashington CapitalsEdmonton Oilers
Paul MacKinnonWashington CapitalsWinnipeg Jets
Steve WestWashington CapitalsWinnipeg Jets
1. Gordie Howe, as explained previously, was not eligible for reclaim as a condition of the merger agreement.
2. Chuck Luksa went unclaimed in the WHA dispersal draft. His contract was picked up by the Whalers on Aug. 15, 1979.
3. Louis Sleigher went unclaimed in the WHA dispersal draft. NHL sources say he was signed as a free agent by the Nordiques on Sept. 11, 1980, however he played a couple games for the Nordiques in '79-'80 and played the rest of that season with the Nordiques' top affiliate, the AHL's Syracuse Firebirds. I presume he signed a deal in 1979.
4. Jim Turkiewicz went unclaimed in the WHA dispersal draft. He tried out with the Buffalo Sabres at their '79 training camp, and played the season in the AHL for the Sabres' affiliate, the Rochester Americans.
5. Serge Beaudoin went unclaimed in the WHA dispersal draft. He signed as a free agent with the Atlanta Flames, Aug. 6, 1979.
6. Michel Parizeau retired as a player. He was named head coach of the AHL's Syracuse Firebirds on Sept. 6, 1979.
7. Ernie Wakely retired after the '78-'79 season.
8. Paul Henderson went unclaimed in the WHA dispersal draft. He signed as a free agent with the Atlanta Flames.

The following players were reclaimed on June 9, 1979. Priority selections are highlighted in green.

PlayerReclaimed byfrom
Kent NilssonAtlanta FlamesWinnipeg Jets
Mark HoweBoston BruinsHartford Whalers
Dave DrydenBuffalo SabresEdmonton Oilers
John GarrettChicago Black HawksHartford Whalers
Bobby HullChicago Black HawksWinnipeg Jets
Terry RuskowskiChicago Black HawksWinnipeg Jets
Doug BerryColorado RockiesEdmonton Oilers
Wes GeorgeDetroit Red WingsEdmonton Oilers
Glenn HicksDetroit Red WingsWinnipeg Jets
Barry LongDetroit Red WingsWinnipeg Jets
George LyleDetroit Red WingsHartford Whalers
Steve CarlsonLos Angeles KingsEdmonton Oilers
Eddie MioMinnesota North StarsEdmonton Oilers
Cal SandbeckMinnesota North StarsEdmonton Oilers
Dave SemenkoMinnesota North StarsEdmonton Oilers
Paul ShmyrMinnesota North StarsEdmonton Oilers
Greg TebbuttMinnesota North StarsQuebec Nordiques
Alain CôtéMontreal CanadiensQuebec Nordiques
Dan GeoffrionMontreal CanadiensQuebec Nordiques
Alan HanglesbenMontreal CanadiensHartford Whalers
Peter MarshMontreal CanadiensWinnipeg Jets
Richard BrodeurNew York IslandersQuebec Nordiques
Kelly DavisNew York IslandersEdmonton Oilers
Dave LangevinNew York IslandersEdmonton Oilers
Garry LariviereNew York IslandersQuebec Nordiques
Markus MattssonNew York IslandersWinnipeg Jets
Jim MayerNew York RangersEdmonton Oilers
Warren MillerNew York RangersHartford Whalers
Dennis SobchukPhiladelphia FlyersEdmonton Oilers
Paul BaxterPittsburgh PenguinsQuebec Nordiques
Kim ClacksonPittsburgh PenguinsWinnipeg Jets
Morris LukowichPittsburgh PenguinsWinnipeg Jets
Christian BordeleauSt. Louis BluesQuebec Nordiques
Scott CampbellSt. Louis BluesWinnipeg Jets
Mike LiutSt. Louis BluesEdmonton Oilers
Risto SiltanenSt. Louis BluesEdmonton Oilers
Jordy DouglasToronto Maple LeafsHartford Whalers
Rick LeyToronto Maple LeafsHartford Whalers
Stan WeirToronto Maple LeafsEdmonton Oilers
John HughesVancouver CanucksEdmonton Oilers
Bengt-Åke GustafssonWashington CapitalsEdmonton Oilers1
Paul MacKinnonWashington CapitalsWinnipeg Jets
Wayne Gretzky(none)2Edmonton Oilers
1. The Oilers' priority claim over Bengt Gustafsson was challenged by the Capitals. The Capitals' appeal to President John Ziegler was ultimately successful and Gustafsson was transferred to the Capitals on Sept. 15, 1979.
2. No NHL team had any 'rights' to Wayne Gretzky, however the Oilers made him one of their priority selections anyway. The Oilers made this claim to assert their rights to Gretzky and prevent him from being eligible for selection in the Entry Draft. Complicating matters was the fact that Gretzky didn't have a contract with the Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club: his contract was with owner Peter Pocklington himself.

There are a few players who are erroneously named as 'reclaims' by a few of the typical sources out there, notably the NHL itself. Brad Selwood for instance was not reclaimed by the Canadiens from the Whalers. He had played for the Whalers since their inception in 1972. Prior to that he played in Toronto, and was a compensatory claim by the Canadiens in the 1972 NHL Intra-League Draft. Selwood announced his retirement from the Whalers on January 30, 1979. About six weeks later, March 13, he signed a contract with the Canadiens. He never played a game for them: he was traded to the Kings that September, before the '79-'80 season began.

Another such player is Rich Preston. Preston played for the Jets, and was in fact the final WHA playoff MVP. He was quoted in the papers as having taken to a microphone at centre ice after the Jets were presented the Avco World Trophy and gave a rousing speech to the Winnipeg fans. However, after the season, he became a free agent. As much as he appreciated the Jets' fan support it didn't pay the bills. He signed a contract with the Black Hawks. The Jets were keen on keeping him and Terry Ruskowski, two of their better young players, however Ruskowski was reclaimed by those same Black Hawks. So too was Bobby Hull, who had retired from the Jets early in the '78-'79 season. According to the papers of the time Jets GM John Ferguson had planned to let the Hawks reclaim Hull (whom the Hawks had been in negotiations with after he retired from the Jets) in exchange for not reclaiming Ruskowski, but Hawks GM Bob Pulford reneged and reclaimed both. Ruskowski was protected in the expansion draft, Hull wasn't, and Ferguson claimed Hull back from the Black Hawks in retaliation. He planned to trade Hull back to the Hawks for one of Preston or Ruskowski but Pulford refused, stating that younger players like Preston and Ruskowski were too high a price for the 40-year-old, semi-retired Hull. Ferguson and Pulford negotiated throughout the summer, but no deal could be reached. Ferguson tried to get Ruskowski back by claiming that according to NHL rules the Jets were owed compensation for the Hawks' signing of Preston (this was what Dale McCourt's lawsuit I mentioned earlier was about), and Ferguson wanted Ruskowski; Preston signed his contract immediately following the WHA playoffs and the signing was ruled to be not subject to 'equalization'.

Hull had no intention of playing for the Jets but he eventually relented, came out of retirement in November and played 18 games with the Jets before injuring a shoulder. Toward the end of February, 1980, after Hull recuperated from his injury, Ferguson traded him to the Whalers (complicated by the fact that Hull still owned 12.5% of the Jets; his share, worth approximately $430,000 at the time, was held in trust and Hull had no active role in the management of the Jets. The share was divested in the summer of 1980 as part of his divorce settlement with ex-wife Joanne). Ferguson and Hull reputedly had a very poor working relationship, and Ferguson often openly criticized Hull's play in the local media. Hull closed out his long, illustrious career in Hartford.

As I wrote in the notes above, Bengt Gustafsson was one of Edmonton's priority selections (the Oilers were the only team to use all of their available priority selections; the other teams only picked one skater each), however he was ultimately transferred to the Capitals. At issue was a directive the NHL gave the WHA during the merger negotiations: the WHA clubs were to cease all contract negotiations with players effective December 31, 1978 in order to prevent them from stocking up on players in anticipation of the merger. According to Oilers GM Larry Gordon the WHA didn't notify the member clubs' general managers of this directive until March of '79, after the merger was agreed upon. The Oilers signed Gustafsson after the December 31 cutoff date thus NHL President John Ziegler, after the Capitals presented this evidence to him, overruled the Oilers priority claim and transferred Gustafsson to the Capitals on Sept. 15, 1979. This was well after the expansion draft and the reclaim 'draft' so the Oilers had lost Gustafsson and the opportunity to reclaim someone else in his place.

Gustafsson was the only player whose rights were caught in this legal loophole. Goalie Hannu Kamppuri was signed by the Oilers in March of '79, and nobody had a problem with that...

Protected Lists

As I said earlier the NHL teams were allowed to protect up to 15 skaters and two goaltenders and would lose four players in the expansion draft, subject to an exception: if a team lost more than one of its reclaimed players as a priority selection it was allowed to protect an additional player. If a team lost two reclaims as priority selections it was allowed to protect 16 skaters and two goaltenders, and would lose only three players in the draft. If a team lost three reclaims as priority selections it was allowed to protect 17 skaters and two goaltenders, and would lose only two players in the draft. Just such a thing happened to the Penguins and Islanders. The Penguins reclaimed Paul Baxter, Kim Clackson and Morris Lukowich but Baxter and Lukowich were made priority selections by their respective WHA 'expansion' clubs. The Penguins were therefore allowed to protect an extra skater and would only lose three players in the expansion draft. The Islanders lost Richard Brodeur, Markus Mattsson and Garry Lariviere as priority selections therefore they were allowed to protect two extra skaters, and would only lose two players in the expansion draft.

The protected lists were filed on June 11, two days after the reclamation 'draft' and two days before the expansion draft.

Atlanta FlamesBoston BruinsBuffalo SabresChicago Black HawksColorado RockiesDetroit Red Wings
Dan BouchardGerry CheeversDon EdwardsMurray BannermanBill OleschukJim Rutherford
Reggie LemelinGilles GilbertBob SauveTony EspositoMichel PlasseRogie Vachon
Ivan BoldirevWayne CashmanKen BreitenbachJ.P. BordeleauDon AshbyThommie Bergman
Guy ChouinardDwight FosterRick DudleyTed BulleyBarry BeckDan Bolduc
Bill ClementStan JonathanDanny GareAlain DaigleMike ChristieJohn Hilworth
Ken HoustonDon MarcotteBill HajtGreg FoxGary CroteauBilll Hogaboam
Ed KeaPeter McNabJerry KorabReg KerrRon DelormeGreg Joly
Don LaurenceRick MiddletonDon LuceCliff KorollMike DwyerDan Labraaten
Bob MacMillanMike MilburyRick MartinDave LoganTrevor JohansenReed Larson
Bob MurdochBob MillerGilbert PerreaultTom LysiakMike KitchenNick Libett
Kent NilssonTerry O'ReillyCraig RamsayJohn MarksBill LocheadBarry Long
Willi PlettBrad ParkRene RobertGrant MulveyDennis OwcharGeorge Lyle
Jean PronovostJean RatelleAndre SavardBob MurrayWilf PaiementPerry Miller
Darcy RotaDick RedmondJim SchoenfeldHarold PhillipoffRandy PierceDennis Polonich
Phil RussellBobby SchmautzDave SchultzPat RibbleDon SaleskiAndre St. Laurent
Dave ShandRick SmithRic SeilingTerry RuskowskiJack ValiquetteErrol Thompson
Eric VailJohn WensinkDerek SmithDoug WilsonJohn Van BoxmeerPaul Woods
Los Angeles KingsMinnesota North StarsMontreal CanadiensNew York IslandersNew York RangersPhiladelphia Flyers
Ron GrahameGary EdwardsKen DrydenChico ReschJohn DavidsonRick St. Croix
Mario LessardGilles MelocheMichel LarocqueBilly SmithDoug SoetaertPhil Myre
Marcel DionneKent-Erik AnderssonBrian EngblomMike BossyLucien DeBloisBill Barber
Glenn GoldupFred BarrettBob GaineyBob BourneRon DuguayMel Bridgman
Butch GoringPer-Olov BrasarRejean HouleClark GilliesPhil EspositoBobby Clarke
Rick HamptonJack CarlsonDoug JarvisBill HarrisRon GreschnerBob Dailey
Randy HoltMike FidlerGuy LafleurLorne HenningAnders HedbergAndre Dupont
Steve JensenAl MacAdamYvon LambertMike HordyPat HickeyPaul Evans
Randy ManeryKris ManeryGuy LapointeGarry HowattDave MaloneyTom Gorence
Rick MulhernBrad MaxwellJacques LemaireMike KaszyckiMario MaroisAl Hill
Mike MurphyGary SargentPierre MondouDave LangevinMike McEwenPaul Holmgren
Rob PalmerGlen SharpleyMark NapierDave LewisDon MurdochBob "Hound Dog" Kelly
Charlie SimmerPaul ShmyrDoug RisebroughBob LorimerUlf NilssonReggie Leach
Dave TaylorGreg SmithLarry RobinsonWayne MerrickDean TalafousRick MacLeish
Vic VenaskyTim YoungSerge SavardBob NystromWalt TkaczukTerry Murray
Bert WilsonTom YounghansSteve ShuttStefan PerssonCarol VadnaisDennis Ververgaert
Murray WilsonRon ZanussiMario TremblayDenis PotvinSteve VickersJim Watson
   John Tonelli  
   Bryan Trottier 
Pittsburgh PenguinsSt. Louis BluesToronto Maple LeafsVancouver CanucksWashington Capitals
Denis HerronMike LiutPaul HarrisonGary BromleyJim Bedard
Gord LaxtonEd StaniowskiMike PalmateerGlen HanlonGary Inness
Russ AndersonJack BrownschildeJohn AndersonJeff BanduraPierre Bouchard
Tom BladonMike CrombeenPat BoutetteRick BlightGuy Charron
Randy CarlyleTony CurrieDave BurrowsDrew CallanderSteve Clippingdale
Blair ChapmanBlake DunlopJerry ButlerBrad GassoffRick Green
George FergusonBernie FederkoPaul GardnerJere GillisDennis Hextall
Jim HamiltonNeil LabatteDave HutchisonJohn HughesYvon Labre
Rick KehoeRick LapointeDan MaloneyDennis KearnsGord Lane
Orest KindrachukChuck LefleyLanny McDonaldDon LeverMark Lofthouse
Peter LeeBryan MaxwellWalt McKechnieBob MannoJack Lynch
Ross LonsberryLarry PateyRocky SaganiukKevin McCarthyDennis Maruk
Pete MahovlichTom RoulstonBorje SalmingJack McIlhargeyRobert Picard
Greg MaloneBob StewartDarryl SittlerChris OddleifsonGreg Polis
Gary McAdamBrian SutterIan TurnbullRon SedibauerTom Rowe
Rod SchuttGarry UngerDave WilliamsHarold SnepstsPeter Scamurra
Gregg SheppardMike ZukeRon WilsonBob TudorBob Sirois
Ron Stackhouse   

The Draft

OverallPlayer ChosenByFromFill-In
Round 1
1Peter MarshWinnipeg JetsMontreal CanadiensBill Nyrop
2Cam ConnorEdmonton OilersMontreal CanadiensGilles Lupien
3Alan HangslebenHartford WhalersMontreal CanadiensRod Langway
4Dave FarrishQuebec NordiquesNew York RangersJocelyn Guevremont
Round 2
5Gerry HartQuebec NordiquesNew York IslandersYvon Vautour
6Nick FotiuHartford WhalersNew York RangersEd Johnstone
7Lee FogolinEdmonton OilersBuffalo SabresBill Stewart
8Lindsay MiddlebrookWinnipeg JetsNew York Rangers 
Round 3
9Bobby HullWinnipeg JetsChicago Black HawksBob Hoffmeyer
10Pat PriceEdmonton OilersNew York Islanders 
11Rick LeyHartford WhalersToronto Maple LeafsJimmy Jones
12Ron LowQuebec NordiquesDetroit Red Wings 
Round 4
13Pierre PlanteQuebec NordiquesNew York RangersJim Mayer
14Al SimsHartford WhalersBoston BruinsGary Doak
15Colin CampbellEdmonton OilersPittsburgh PenguinsKim Clackson
16Al CameronWinnipeg JetsDetroit Red WingsJean Hamel
Round 5
17Dave HoydaWinnipeg JetsPhiladelphia FlyersBarry Dean
18Larry BrownEdmonton OilersLos Angeles KingsDoug Halward
19Jean SavardHartford WhalersChicago Black HawksMiles Zaharko
20Blair StewartQuebec NordiquesWashington CapitalsEddy Godin
Round 6
21John BabyQuebec NordiquesMinnesota North StarsDave Semenko
22Ralph KlassenHartford WhalersColorado RockiesJohn Contini
23Pete LoPrestiEdmonton OilersMinnesota North Stars 
24Jim RobertsWinnipeg JetsMinnesota North StarsDan Chicoine
Round 7
25Lorne StamlerWinnipeg JetsToronto Maple LeafsRon Ellis
26Ron AreshenkoffEdmonton OilersBuffalo SabresRichie Dunn
27Rick HodgsonHartford WhalersAtlanta FlamesBobby Lalonde
28John SmrkeQuebec NordiquesSt. Louis BluesBob Murdoch
Round 8
29Dave ParroQuebec NordiquesBoston Bruins 
30Kevin KempHartford WhalersToronto Maple LeafsBruce Boudreau
31Inge HammarstromEdmonton OilersSt. Louis BluesNeil Komadoski
32Mark HeaslipWinnipeg JetsLos Angeles KingsDarryl Edestrand
Round 9
33Pierre HamelWinnipeg JetsToronto Maple Leafs 
34John GouldEdmonton OilersAtlanta FlamesCurt Bennett
35Bill BennettHartford WhalersBoston BruinsDennis O'Brien
36Ken KuzykQuebec NordiquesMinnesota North Stars 
Round 10
37Roland CloutierQuebec NordiquesDetroit Red WingsRick Vasko
38Bernie JohnstonHartford WhalersPhiladelphia FlyersDennis Sobchuk
39Doug HicksEdmonton OilersChicago Black HawksKeith Magnuson
40Gord McTavishWinnipeg JetsSt. Louis BluesBob Simpson
Round 11
41Gord SmithWinnipeg JetsWashington CapitalsBob Girard
42Tom EdurEdmonton OilersPittsburgh PenguinsDale Tallon
43Brian HillHartford WhalersAtlanta FlamesBrad Marsh
44Terry MartinQuebec NordiquesBuffalo SabresLarry Playfair
Round 12
45Jamie MastersQuebec NordiquesSt. Louis Blues 
46David GivenHartford WhalersBuffalo Sabres 
47Wayne BianchinEdmonton OilersPittsburgh Penguins 
48Clark HamiltonWinnipeg JetsDetroit Red Wings 
Round 13
49Jim CunninghamWinnipeg JetsPhiladelphia FlyersGord Garbutt
50Mike ForbesEdmonton OilersBoston Bruins 
51M.F. SchurmanHartford WhalersPhiladelphia Flyers 
52Hartland MonahanQuebec NordiquesLos Angeles KingsSteve Carlson
Round 14
53Ron AndruffQuebec NordiquesColorado RockiesLarry Skinner
54Nick BeverleyHartford WhalersColorado RockiesMike Gillis
55Doug FavellEdmonton OilersColorado Rockies 
56Dennis AbgrallWinnipeg JetsLos Angeles Kings 
Round 15
57Bill RileyWinnipeg JetsWashington CapitalsRon Lalonde
58Doug PateyEdmonton OilersWashington Capitals 
59Norm LapointeHartford WhalersVancouver Canucks 
60Alain CoteQuebec NordiquesMontreal Canadiens 
Round 16
61Lars ZetterstromQuebec NordiquesVancouver CanucksLarry Goodenough
62Don KozakHartford WhalersVancouver Canucks 
63Bob "Battleship" KellyEdmonton OilersChicago Black Hawks 
64Gene CarrWinnipeg JetsAtlanta Flames 
Round 17
65Hilliard GravesWinnipeg JetsVancouver Canucks

Backroom Deals

You might look at the first round's results and think "Hmm, that's an awfully strange coincidence that the first three picks were all from the Canadiens, and the expansion teams passed up chances to pick up someone like Rod Langway." It's not coincidence, it was Montreal Canadiens GM Irv Grundman pulling his best Sam Pollock impression. If you've read my post about the 1967 Expansion Draft you may recall that Sam Pollock was the man who wrote the rules for that draft and who crafted exemptions so that he could keep many of his best young players. Grundman, Pollock's successor, wheeled-and-dealed as best he could 12 years later.

The first round of results was essentially pre-arranged. If you scroll up to the list of players available for reclaim you'll notice many, many Canadiens players. And yet the Canadiens only reclaimed four players: Alain Côté, Danny Geoffrion, Peter Marsh and Alan Hangsleben. They took those four in particular because they were manipulating the expansion teams to pick the players they wanted them to pick. In consideration for picking the players the Canadiens wanted them to pick the four new teams would be allowed to keep the players the Canadiens could have otherwise reclaimed. Montreal reclaimed Côté and Geoffrion from Quebec because they wanted Geoffrion, didn't want Côté, and wanted Quebec to lay off from picking Langway, Rick Chartraw, Pierre Larouche or another player the Canadiens were intent on keeping. For this Quebec was allowed to keep Marc Tardif, J.C. Tremblay, Barry Melrose, John Stewart, etc.

Similarly Montreal 'gifted' Dave Hunter (who was a highly regarded prospect at the time; the Habs' first-round pick in 1978, in fact) to the Oilers as long as they went along with the plan and picked Cam Connor. Winnipeg got to keep Peter Marsh and Jamie Hislop, and Hartford got to keep Hangsleben and Gordie Roberts.

The Nordiques were also keen on keeping Real Cloutier, their leading scorer at the time, but his NHL rights were owned by the Black Hawks. The Hawks had much more interest in Cloutier than they did in any of the players they were leaving unprotected, so Quebec had to cough up a first round entry draft pick to keep the Hawks from reclaiming Cloutier. This trade became infamous because the pick the Nordiques gave up, their first round pick in 1980, was eventually a #3 overall pick used by the Hawks to select Denis Savard. Cloutier was a very skilled player and still not even 23 years old at the time, but he retired at age 28; Savard played for 17 years and became a Hall of Famer.

In other such deals the North Stars traded a fourth round draft pick to the Oilers in exchange for the Oilers letting the North Stars reclaim Paul Shmyr. The pick was used to select Glenn Anderson. Similarly the Jets got a seventh round pick from the Penguins for letting the Penguins have Kim Clackson; the pick was used to select winger Mike Lauen, who played a grand total of three games in his entire NHL career. Not quite the steal that the Oilers ended up with.

The Islanders reclaimed goalie Richard Brodeur from the Nordiques but the Nordiques made Brodeur one of their priority selections. The Isles still wanted Brodeur so they traded third-stringer Goran Hogosta to the Nordiques for Brodeur. Brodeur had been the Nordiques' starter and in retrospect they probably should have kept him. Hogosta played part of one season with the Nordiques before going back to Sweden, while Brodeur was eventually traded to the Canucks and was the driving force behind the Canucks' trip to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1982. I guess the Nordiques were confident in former Cincinnati Stinger Michel Dion, whom they acquired in the WHA dispersal draft.

The Edmonton Oilers were hardest hit by player reclamation, losing 14 players to NHL clubs (15 if you count Bengt Gustafsson). They reacquired Dave Semenko (trivia note: Semenko, unlikely as it may seem, scored the very last goal in WHA history; at 19:48 of the third period of game six of the finals Semenko potted the third goal in a 7-3 defeat. Click here for a video! You can hear Rich Preston's speech at the end too!) and received a third round draft pick from the North Stars in August, 1979 for the Oilers' second and third round picks. The pick the Oilers received was used to select Mark Messier, while the picks the North Stars received were used to select Neal Broten and Kevin Maxwell. The Oilers also reacquired Risto Siltanen from the Blues, along with Tom Roulston, in exchange for Joe Micheletti.


© 2012-2017 Mark Parsons