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This Day In Hockey History-June 24, 1977-NHL Proposes Merger With WHA

NHL WHA Merger

The National Hockey League proposed Friday a merger with the Hockey Association with no less than six teams from the World Association forming a separate division under a National Hockey League umbrella.

The proposal will be put forth to the surviving World Hockey teams and is expected to be accepted. The cities most likely to join the National Hockey League are , New England, Cincinnati, Edmonton, Houston and Winnipeg, with Birmingham also under consideration.

The new division, whatever the number of teams, would play a 1977-78 schedule within itself. The four top teams then would join the top 12 finishers of the remainder of the National Hockey League in an interlocking playoff format.

The announcement of the action was made jointly by National Hockey League president-elect John Ziegler and Alan Eagle-son, executive director of the Players Association. With a mountain of problems still to be resolved between National Hockey League owners and the players' union, the two groups have scheduled more meetings for starting July 13.

The “merger” as the players want to call it, or ‘'expansion” in the owners' terms, would be worked in gradually. Following the 1977-78 season, the schedules would be slowly integrated with each additional season, culminated in a thorough realignment of the league within four years.

Original proposed Wha Merger – Image by Chris Creamer at sportslogos.net

Ziegler said “not less than six teams” from the World Association would be involved. But he refused to divulge what the incoming teams will have to pay for joining the National Hockey League. “A figure of dollars. $3.2 million, has been reported,” he said, “but it is less than that.”

Once the new teams have tendered their applications to join the National Hockey League, the will be a thing of the past.

“I don't know what they will call their division,” said Eagleson. “Why not the Eagleson-Ziegler Division?”

Ziegler interrupted and said: “Why not the Ziegler-Eagleson Division?”

Such matters as what to do with the collective bargaining agreement, players' pension rights, rights held to various players by teams in both leagues and the fate of those World Hockey Association players whose teams are not included form a long list of problems which must be resolved.

Once merged, the collective bargaining agreement will be open for renegotiation. At least one owner, Jack Kent Cooke of the , is against renegotiating the basic agreement, in which unanimous approval is needed.

“The players hope that the owners will be able to resolve t h e matters of unanimous agreement,” said Eagleson. “We will take into consideration arising problems which we hope to resolve, many of them at the meetings in Toronto.

“The owners are not looking at this as a merger but as expansion. And that brings up a lot of questions involving antitrust and labor problems,” said Eagleson.

There also are the problems of staistics. goal scoring and other matters which appear to be foremost in the minds of National Hockey League players who believe the new division 1 will be more free-wheeling when it comes to scoring.

Eagleson said the merger-expansion had to be made before July 1, otherwise, the World Association felt it would have to play the 1977-78 season as a separate league.

The , , Quebec Nordiques and Winnipeg Jets were ultimately admitted to the NHL.

“Conditions for coming into our league will be set,” said Ziegler. “As to how many can qualify, we'll have to wait and see. All incoming teams must meet conditions of the National Hockey League constitution and each prospective member must file for application and then must be accepted.”

As to what happens to fresh money coming from the new teams. Ziegler said it could be used “to clean up obligations within and outside the National Hockey League.”

Although it wasn't stated Friday, Eagleson had said Thursday a portion of money the players' union will receive probably will go into the pension fund.

One sticky7 problem is the question of which team has rights to what players, since many have been drafted at one time or another by teams in both leagues.

“We ll be able to work out an arrangement on that,” said Ziegler.

“There's a good chance it will be worked out,” said Eagleson.

In another matter, the World Hockey Association has 58 international competition games scheduled this coming season.

Both Eagleson and Ziegler said such games would have to be restricted and such international competition could not be worked in with the National Hockey League schedule.

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