WHA’s Start-O-Matic Debut



3 Old-Timer Hockey Seasons Coming Soon on Cards, Disks

          — 1975-76 WHA

            — 1974-75 NHL

          — 1955-56 NHL



By Glenn Guzzo


            Strat-O-Matic’s inaugural re-creation of the star-studded World Hockey Association is one of three old-timer seasons offered for the first time this summer.


            The league that raided the National Hockey League of some of its brightest stars, then forced a merger than expanded the NHL, will come to life in Strat-O-Matic with the 1975-76 season, about the mid-point in the seven-year league.


            SOM also is offering the 1974-75 NHL and the 1955-56 NHL for the first time.


            All three seasons will be in last year’s format: Six teams in card form (that’s the whole league for 1955-56), and a supplemental disk that allows gamers to print out additional teams and/or extra players. Disks with all the teams will be available for the CD-ROM version of Strat-O-Matic hockey.


            Highlights from the card sets:


1955-56 NHL

            The Montreal Canadiens won their first of five straight Stanley Cups, the most dominant stretch of the Original Six era.  And this was the most dominant team of the group, going 45-15-10 for 100 points, 24 better than second-place Detroit, which was in transition after seven straight years with the league’s best record.


            These Canadiens had Hall of Famers everywhere: Goalie Jacques Plante, centers Jean Beliveau and Henri Richard, wingers Rocket Richard, Boom-Boom Geoffrion and Dickie Moore, defensemen Doug Harvey and Tom Johnson. Beliveau (47-41-88) led the league in goals and points, linemate Bert Olmstead led with 56 assists. Rocket Richard (38) and Geoffrion (29) gave Montreal three of the NHL’s top goal scorers.


            Detroit still had the great Gordie Howe (38-41-79), Ted Lindsay (27 goals), Alex Delvecchio (25 goals) and Red Kelly (16 goals, far above other defensemen), but young goalie Glenn Hall did not fully replace the departed Terry Sawchuk.


            Other stars of the season were New York’s Hall of Famers, Andy Bathgate (19-47-66) and Bill Gadsby (the league’s highest-scoring defenseman with 51 points), Toronto’s Todd Sloan (37 goals) and Sawchuk, whose third-best goals-against average could not keep Boston from a fifth-place finish.


1974-75 NHL

            Some regard this second straight Stanley Cup for Philadelphia’s “Broad Street Bullies” a dark period in NHL history, but the Flyers had skill as well as braun. For every Dave “The Hammer” Schultz (record 472 penalty minutes), Moose Dupont (second with 296 PIM) and Battleship Kelly, there was a Bobby Clarke (27-89-116), the sixth highest scorer in the NHL, Reggie Leach (45 goals) and Rick MacLeish (38-41-79). Bill Barber added 34 goals and Bernie Parent was the league’s finest goaltender.


            The Flyers’ 113 regular-season points were equaled by Montreal and Buffalo.


            Driven by Guy Lafleur (53-66-119) and Pete Mahovlich (35-82-117), the potent Canadiens led the NHL in scoring and had ten players with 20-plus goals each, including defensemen Guy Lapointe and Serge Savard.


            Buffalo’s young franchise made a historic leap, from 76 points the previous year to 113 and an appearance in the Stanley Cup finals. The Sabres’ “French Connection” line of wingers Richard Martin (52-43-95) and Rene Robert (40-60-100) centered by Gilbert Perreault (39-57-96) was the NHL’s top-scoring unit. Six other Sabres scored 22 or more.


            Los Angeles had its finest season to date, using the league’s second stingiest defense, backed by goalie Rogatien Vachon, to accumulate 105 points. Veteran RW Bob Nevin (31-41-72) led in goals and points on a team with a balanced attack of young forwards – six others scored 24-30 goals each.


            Boston’s sensational Bobby Orr scored 46 goals and led the NHL with 135 points. He often assisted Phil Esposito, who led everyone with 61 goals and was second with 127 points.


            Vancouver won the Smythe Division thanks to sniping wingers Don Lever (38 goals) and John Gould (34) and playmaking center Andre Boudrias (16-62-78).


1975-76 WHA

            Three years before Wayne Gretzky’s WHA debut and four years before the four best WHA teams merged with the NHL, two of the greatest players in hockey history led the WHA Houston Aeros and Winnipeg Jets to a league-best 106 points, just two points ahead of the league’s top-scoring team, the Quebec Nordiques. Calgary, Phoenix and Indianapolis also will appear in card format.


            Houston’s top scorer was the ageless Gordie Howe, who at age 48 scored 32 goals and had 102 points while playing in 78 of 80 games, plus all 17 Aeros’ playoff games. Howe is joined by his sons, LW Mark (39-37-76) and defenseman Marty (14-23-37) plus such future important NHL players as John Tonelli and Terry Ruskowski.


            Winnipeg had the league’s best line, led by the WHA’s most important player, Bobby Hull. The man who gave the WHA its earliest credibility was the second-leading scorer in ’75-76 (at 53-70-123) as the left wing on a line with RW Anders Hedberg (50-55-105) and C Ulf Nilsson (38-76-114), two of hockey’s pioneering Swedes.


            Quebec had a fleet of flying Frenchmen on the wings: league-leading scorer Marc Tardiff (71-77-148), Real Cloutier (60-54-114), Rejean Houle (51-52-103) and Serge Bernier (34-68-102), another in the middle, Christian Bordeleau (37-72-109), one on the point, former Montreal Canadien star J.C. Tremblay (12-77-89) and goalie “King” Richard Brodeur, whose 44 wins led the league.


            In Calgary, Danny Lawson (44 goals) and Ron Chipperfield (42) were joined by four more 25-goal men. Phoenix had future NHL coach Robby Ftorek (41-72-113) and Indianapolis had defenseman Pat Stapleton, whose 40 assists led the team.


            Elsewhere, the WHA boasted many other prominent former or future NHLers, including goalies Gerry Cheevers and Dave Dryden, centers Norm Ullman, Ralph Backstrom, Andres Lacroix, Mike Walton and Mike Rogers, and wingers Frank Mahovlich, Paul Henderson, Mark Napier, Tom Webster and Paul Holmgren.