1974/75: As the World Hockey Association entered its third season, the league decided it was time to add two new teams. One of those teams was the Phoenix Roadrunners and the other was the Indianapolis Racers. Playing at the Markey Square Arena, the Racers coached by Gerry Moore made their debut against the Michigan Stags, losing 4-2 in their first game on October 17th. The Racers would drop their first five games, before beating the Quebec Nordiques 5-3 for their first win on October 27th. Wins would be scarce for the first year Racers, as they finished dead last with a record of 18-57-3. Bob Whitlock would lead the Racers in scoring with 57 point, with a team high 36 goals.
1975/76: The Racers would start their second season on the road with a win, as they slammed the expansion Denver Spurs 7-1. However, they would drop their next three games, before suffering a 6-4 loss to the same Spurs in their home opener. Sensing it was time for a change the Racers fired Coach Gerry Moore and replaced him with Jacques Demers. Despite losing to the Minnesota Fighting Saints in Demers first game the Racers would show immediate improvement as Goalie Michal Dion became the best goalie in the WHA guiding the Racers into contention, while Pat Stapleton picked up after the folding of the Chicago Cougars led the team in scoring with 45 points, thanks to 40 assists. Playing in the mediocre Eastern Division would help the Racers as they would go from worst to first, posting a record of 35-39-6 that was good enough to capture the division title to earn a first round playoff bye, as the Racers were the league’s biggest beneficiary from a realignment to three divisions. After ending the regular season with an 11-4-3 record in their final 17 games, the Racers would take on the New England Whalers, losing the opener 4-1. After blanking the Whalers 4-0 in Game 2, the Racers found themselves down three games to one after being unable to win either game in Hartford. Dion would blank the Whalers again in Game 5 for another 4-0 win, as they final broke through on the road, with a 5-3 win in Game 6 to force a decisive seventh game. However, the Racers blew a tie early in Game 7, suffering a humiliating 6-0 loss at home to the New England Whalers.
1976/77: As teams in the WHA began to fold the league went back to the two division alignment, with the Racers remaining in the Eastern Division. Goalie Michal Dion would struggle to repeat his award winning performance from the previous season. However, the Racers managed a slightly better record at 36-37-8, as they finished in third place to make it back into the WHA Playoffs. Leading the Racers in scoring was Darryl Maggs who had 71 points, with 55 assists, while Blair MacDonald led the team with 34 goals. In the playoffs the Racers would find and extra gear as they stunned the Cincinnati Stingers in four straight to reach the WHA semifinals. However, with a trip to the AVCO Cup Finals on the line, the Racers were outclassed by the Quebec Nordiques, losing in five games.
1977/78: After experiencing a taste of success, the Racers stalled out in their fourth season as they found themselves back in last place with a record of 24-51-5, which was 20 points behind the seventh place Cincinnati Stingers, as WHA teams continued to fold, leaving the league with just eight teams. Instability was the story of the season for the Racers, as the team was sold twice, while Ron Ingram, who was the team’s new coach was fired midway through the season, with Bill Goldsworthy coaching the team over its final 29 games.
1978/79: With turmoil plaguing the Racers and the WHA, desperation was clear in Indianapolis as they entered their fifth season. Hoping to be included in the coming merger with the NHL, the Racers beat the St. Louis Blues 4-1 in a pre-season exhibition. However, their biggest move was the signing of a pair of underage rookies. At 17 both Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier were too young to play in the NHL, but the WHA needing talent did not make such rules. Trying to get into the NHL, the Racers signed the young Gretzky to a seven year personal services contract worth $1.75 million dollars. Coached, by Pat Stapleton the Racers dropped their first two games, beating the Quebec Nordiques 4-0. The following game was history in the making as Wayne Gretzky netted his first two goals, despite the Racers losing to the Edmonton Oilers 4-3. Attendance continued to struggle despite the Racers having the most talented rookie to hit professional hockey in years. Losing $40,000 a game, the Racers had no other option but to sell their can’t miss star, and on November 2nd Wayne Gretzky was sold to the Oilers for $700,000. In eight games with the Racers, Gretzky would score three goals with three assists he would go on to win the Rookie of the Year award, by posting a 110 point season. The Racers other 17 year old prospect Mark Messier barely saw the ice in Indiana as he was not ready and appeared in just five games. When the Racers sold off the Great One they had a record of 2-5-1. After the deal the Racers would win just three more games, before ceasing operations midway through December. The Racers final game was a 7-4 loss to the New England Whalers on December 12th. They had a record of 5-18-2 at the moment their season ended. Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier would reunite in Edmonton, after Messier finished the WHA’s final season with the Cincinnati Stingers. The two formed the greatest tandem in NHL history and would finish their careers ranked first and second overall in total NHL points. To date no NHL has shown no interest in placing a team in Indiana.
©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 Indianapolis Racers 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 July 18, 2013. Last updated on July 18, 2013 at 11:30 pm ET.