Tracers- WHA

This is Andre Lacroix in the uniform of the Philadelphia Blazers. Lacroix won the scoring championship in the first year of the WHA (72-73) with 124 points in 78 games.

In their first season, the WHA kept track of lots of stats the NHL didn’t bother to, and as such give us a unique look at that initial season.

Let me give you some examples. Lacroix’s boxcar stats were 78gp, 50-74-124, 83pims. His ppg was 1.59, he scored 9 first goals of the game, 3 proximity goals (which were goals that came within one goal of tying a game), 6 goals that tied the score, 13 tie-breaking goals, 11 insurance goals (giving his team a 2-goal lead), 11 winning goals and 44 “clutch” goals for the season. He had 16 powerplay goals, 0 shorthanded goals, and 9 multiple goal games.

The goalie stuff is the really fun stat breakdown. The best goalie in the WHA’s first season was Gerry Cheevers of the Cleveland Crusaders. He went 32-20-0 in 52gp, had a 2.83GAA and a .908SP. His GAF was 11.37. GAF was “goals allowed frequency”, or number of shots required for each goal allowed by a specific G. The mirror image of SP, in a way. Cheevers had 5 shutout games and 64 shutout periods.

Some of these stats are superfluous, but others are really interesting. The main point though is that the WHA brought much more than big salaries to the game. There were some insightful people at the very top and although many of the stats were discontinued as the league progressed, the leap from G-A-PTS to “proximity” goals and “goals allowed frequency” was stunning in its place and time.

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3 Responses to "Tracers- WHA"

  1. ClaytonMagnet says:

    LT – I’m a bit too young to remember the WHA; I was in kindergarten the first Oiler NHL year. But from what I’ve heard and read, as you say, it was pioneered by some innovators, and has left an enormous footprint on the NHL.

    What I’ve been wondering lately, is that when the current CBA expires – if things blow up again, and if it looks like another season (or more) is lost, do you think there is any possible way another ‘rogue’ league could pop up in retaliation to owners locking out players? Or is there just too much money available to players overseas now, that they wouldn’t bother with a new league with inevitably small salaries?

    Just wondering what your opinion would be…

  2. Lowetide says:

    Claytonmagnet: I think the NHL is probably vulnerable to a new league ONLY if they drop another Canadian market. Winnipeg, Quebec and say Hamilton would be nice options for an outlaw league and if you added Ottawa or Edmonton now there are some markets a new league could thrive in while trying to get a foothold in specific American cities.

    If I had to guess which cities might be attractive to a new league/expansion, the names would be San Diego (for many years a minor league hotbed), Portland (Oregon), Hartford and then cities like Las Vegas and Houston.

    I don’t think hockey should force its way into the south, but Houston was actually a very strong hockey city 30 years ago and it sure as hell isn’t smaller now.

    Oklahoma City is also an interesting hockey town.

    The thing a new league would need is about 12 egomaniacs with money spread around North America. I suspect there’s many more than that out there. :-)

    You made a good point about the CBA though. Imo the only way a rival league starts up is if the “cost certainty” of the NHL teams begins to fade. If I’m a billionaire and want to get into hockey now I’d just wait for a team to come available.

    John Taveras would be my target btw for the first signing.

  3. Hawerchuk says:

    I never saw Lacroix play a pro game, but he ran the rink in Oakland where I played in a beer league. Andre put on about 70 lbs, but he was astonishing to watch. He also didn’t tie his skates, even in his late-50s…

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