Tuesday, July 6, 2010
July by the Numbers checks in at #6 today with a short-lived team from the World Hockey Association.
One of the founding members of the WHA, the Ottawa Nationals got off to a late start after adding a second owner in a better financial position than the original, but failed to come to obtain an agreement to play in Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens. Management subsequently found their home in Ottawa where they played in the 10,000 seat Ottawa Civic Centre but averaged just 3,000 fans per game.
Due to their late start, the team was unable to secure any star players as several of the other clubs were able to do in order to attract the attention of the fans and media heading in to the WHA's debut season.
The team was led in scoring by former Maple Leaf, Bruin and Golden Seal Wayne Carleton, who led the team with 42 goals and 49 assists for 91 points in 75 games. No other player was able to reach 30 goals or 70 points. The Nationals goaltending duties was split between former Penguin Les Binkley and the quirky Gilles Gratton, who played in 51 of the team's games, going 25-22-3.
The Nationals finished in fourth place in the East Division with a slightly less than .500 record at 35-39-4, but qualified for the playoffs, where they would face the New England Whalers.
Unfortunately for the Nationals, the city of Ottawa demanded a $100,000 payment prior to the playoffs for the right to play in the arena through the end of the following season, which the club decided against paying. This led the team to once more look toward Toronto, where they struck a deal to play their playoff games at Maple Leaf Gardens, kicking off the seemingly endless WHA franchise relocation that would plague the league until the dreaded franchise demise became the norm beginning in 1976 when another Ottawa club, the Civics, became the first to fold completely.
Having lost their first two games 6-3 and 4-3 in Boston, the Nationals returned "home" to face the New England Whalers. They won Game 3 4-2, but lost Game 4 by a decisive 7-3 score while averaging 5,000 fans a game. The Whalers closed out the series with a 5-4 win back in Boston to end the Nationals season, and as it turned out, the Nationals themselves, as the team was sold following the season to John Bassett, who kept the team in Toronto beginning with the 1973-74 season and renamed them the Toros.
Today's featured jersey is a 1972-73 Ottawa Nationals Brian Gibbons jersey. This is a very attractive jersey for it's day and the addition of the extra blue stripe trimmed in white just under the shoulder yoke makes it very unique. We especially like the white name on the red nameplate placed directly on top of that stripe.
The team logo is also very bold and well executed, although we always felt it looked more like a corporate logo, for a railroad in particular, rather than a pro hockey team.
Still, a very nice jersey and one that lived an all too short life.
Here is a history of the formation of the WHA and some of the first players to join the upstart league.