1972/73: As the World Hockey Association began play in 1972, the upstart league had hopes that their Chicago franchise named the Cougars would be a cornerstone franchise in the one of the largest media markets. However, before they played their first game, the Cougars had major disadvantages competing against the NHL’s Black Hawks. While hoped one day to build an arena in the nearby Village of Rosemont their first seasons would be spent at the decaying International Amphitheatre. Coached by Marcel Pronovost, the Cougars started the season with a seven game road trip, losing to the Houston Aeros 3-2 in their first game on October 12th. Coming home, with a 1-5-1 record, the Cougars would beat the Winnipeg Jets 3-1 in their first home game, marking the return to Chicago for Black Hawks legend Bobby Hull who signed to play with the Jets in a victory for the new league. Wins would be rare for the Cougars early in the season, as they would lose their next seven games. The Cougars would never find their footing, as they finished in last place in the Western Division with a record of 26-50-2, scoring a league worst 245 goals, despite a strong season from Bob Sicinski who finished fifth in the league with 63 assists.
1973/74: Following their first season, the Cougars attempted to raid talent from the NHL Black Hawks, landing Ralph Backstrom and Pat Stapleton. Stapleton would also serve as the Cougars coach as the team went from the Western Division to the Eastern Division with relocation of the Philadelphia Blazers to Vancouver. The Cougars would play well early, as they had an early six game winning streak. However, that early momentum would be erased by a seven game skid. The Cougars though would manage to slip into the playoffs, by finishing in fourth place with a record of 38-35-5, as Pat Stapleton was won the Defenseman of the Year award. In the playoffs the Cougars would be a decided underdog facing the defending champion New England Whalers who again finished atop the Eastern Division. After dropping the first two games on the road, the Cougars found themselves in a conundrum as the International A Amphitheatre was unavailable having been booked for performance of Peter Pan. The Cougars had hoped to use Chicago Stadium, but it too was unavailable due to the Black Hawks also reaching the playoffs in the NHL. With no other option the Cougars were forced to use a Public rink in Randhurst, which had only 2,000 seats. The intimate conditions suited the Cougars well as they won 6-1 in Game 3, before evening the series with a2-1 overtime win in Game 4. The Cougars would go on to upset the Whalers in seven games, In the Semifinals the Cougars would continue to play at Randhurst Twin Ice Arena as they took on the Toronto Toros. After splitting the first two games in Toronto, the Cougars again came out flying in their temporary home with a 3-2 win in Game 3. However, the Toros would take the next two games to put the Cougars on the brink. Back in Randhurst the Cougars again exceled forcing a seventh game with a 9-2 explosion in Game 6. The Cougars would carry the momentum into Game 7, which they won in Toronto 5-2 to go to the AVCO Cup Finals.
1974 AVCO Cup Finals: Facing the Houston Aeros in the championship round, the Cougars hoped to return to the International Amphitheatre. However, when the production of Peter Pan wrapped up the ice was melted, forcing them to remain in their tiny home in Randhurst. The Aeros led by Gordie Howe and his sons dominated the Cougars in the Finals winning all four games easily to capture the WHA’s second championship.
1973/74: Looking to improve off their run to the WHA Finals, the Cougars looked to improve their defense by signing Dave Dryden. However, signs of trouble began early as original owners Walter and Jordon Kaiser, were unable to secure funds to build the planned arena in Rosemont as the lost revenue in the playoff run would be a cut the Cougars could never recover from financially. The team would be sold to a trio of players Ralph Backstrom, Dave Dryden, and player-coach Pat Stapleton. Under player ownership the Cougars got off to a bad start, losing 11 of their first 13 games. The bad start would doom the Cougars as they would go on to finish the season with a record of 30-47-1, and missing the playoffs. The Cougars final game would be played on April 6th in Edmonton as they were doubled up by the Oilers 6-3. Following the season the Cougars would fold, with the remaining players being dispersed throughout the league. The arena in Rosemont that was planned would eventually be built, becoming home to DePaul Basketball and various other professional teams, including the AHL’s Chicago Wolves.
©MMXIII Tank Productions. Stats researched by Frank Fleming, all information, and team names are property of the World Hockey Association. This site is not affiliated with the Chicago Cougars or the WHA. This site is maintained for research purposes only. All logos used on this page were from Chris Creamer’s Sports Logos Page.
Page created on June 25, 2013. Last updated on June 25, 2013 at 11:30 pm ET.