1978-79 Hockey WHA Windows Season

$30.00In Stock
  • Jet Takeoff and Landing: Winnipeg Repeats as Champs in WHA’s Finale
  • Oil Job: Gretzky Debuts, Oilers Soar
  • The Real Deal: Top Scorer Cloutier Notches 75 Goals
Full Summary

In the final season of the World Hockey Association before its merger with the National Hockey League, repeat champion Winnipeg made their fourth straight appearance in the WHA’s Avco Cup playoff finals. But unlike last year’s sweep, the Jets had to fight to a six-game finish against upstart Edmonton and its sensational rookie, Wayne Gretzky.

A bottom-tier WHA team until this season, Edmonton rode Gretzky to a league-best 48 regular-season wins and 98 points for the highest-scoring team in the WHA. Gretzky, third in regular-season goals and scoring (46-64-110), was No. 1 in both goals and points for the playoffs (10-10-20) in the Oilers’ 13 games.

All that earned rookie-of-the-year Gretzky only a second-team All-Star berth, behind Cincinnati center Robbie Ftorek (39-77-116), who led the league in assists. The league MVP was Gretzky teammate Dave Dryden, whose 2.98 GAA led all goalies. The top scorer was Quebec right winger Real Cloutier, whose 75 goals (a career high) and 129 points led WHA.

Top players for the champs were last year’s top rookie, Kent Nilsson, who led the Jets with 107 points and 68 assists, 65-goal man Morris Lukowich, 46-goal scorer Peter Sullivan and 66-assist man Terry Ruskowski. Winger Willy Lindstrom followed a 26-36-62 season with a team-best 10 playoff goals, though the Avco Cup MVP was right winger Rich Preston.

Students of hockey history will recognize all these names and many more as important former and future players in the NHL as well. Among them is first-team all-star and Hockey Hall of Famer Mark Howe, whose 42-65-107 season led a team with Andre Lacroix, Mike Rogers, Dave Keon and Mark’s father, hockey legend Gordie Howe, who scored 19 goals at age 50.

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