1973/74: After one season, the Ottawa Nationals were sold to John Bassett, whose father once was an owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The team that was originally planned to be placed in Toronto would become the Toronto Toros in their second season. Originally Bassett wanted the Toros to play at the CNE Coliseum. Still, Bill Ballard, son of Maple Leafs Owner Harold Ballard who was in prison, did not approve, wanting them at the Maple Leafs Gardens to use their rent money as part of an extra revenue stream. The Toros would settle on playing at the Varsity Arena, as they tried unsuccessfully to sign Maple Leafs star player Darryl Sittler. The Toros first game would end in a 4-4 tie against the Chicago Cougars on October 7th. It would be an up and down season for the Toros, as they spent most of the season near the .500 mark. However, as the season came to an end, the Toros were playing their best hockey, winning their last six games as they finished in second place with a record of 41-33-4, as Billy Harris was named Coach of the Year. Much like their season in Ottawa, the Toros relied on the combination of Les Blinkley and Giles Gratton in net, as Wayne Carleton led the team in scoring with 37 goals and 55 assists. Also, having a strong season was Wayne Dillon, who scored 30 goals, while former Maple Leafs star Carl Brewer anchored the blue line. In the playoffs, he Toros would cruise past the Cleveland Crusaders winning the first-round series in five games, as they dominated the first three games by a 12-6 margin. The Toros would find a much tougher task in the second round against the Chicago Cougars who, despite barely making the playoffs were in the semifinals after upsetting the New England Whalers. After the Toros and Cougars split the first games, the Toros appeared to be on the way to the WHA Finals, after a 5-3 with at the Varsity Arena in Game 5. However, with a chance to end the series in six games, the Toros would deliver one of their worst games of the season, losing 9-2. The Cougars would go on to win the series in seven games, winning the finale in Toronto 5-2.
1974/75: After a successful first season in Toronto, the Toros secured a deal to play at the Maple Leaf Gardens. The team looked to improve by adding to familiar faces from the NHL, 500 goal scorer Frank Mahovlich and Paul Henderson, who was the hero throughout all of Canada during the 1972 Summit Series against the Soviet Union. The move to the Gardens would be the seeds of the doom of the Toronto Toros, as Harold Ballard, after a one-year prison sentence, was back in control of the arena, and he saw to it that the Toros had as little chance of success as possible. The cranky owner of the Leafs disapproved of the WHA and sought to sabotage the league by sinking its Toronto based team with one of the worst lease deals in the history of professional sports. Just to play at MLG, the Toros agreed to pay Ballard $15,000 per game. When the Toros played their first game at Maple Leafs Garden, the arena was nearly dark, as Harold Ballard demanded an extra $3,500 for the use of the arena’s lights. He then refused to allow the Toros to use the Maple Leafs locker, forcing them to construct a new locker for $55,000. He also removed all the cushions from the bench, saying if the Toros wanted cushions, they would have to buy them as well. Despite the shenanigans from the use of MLG, the Toros got off to a fantastic start, winning their first six games on the way to a 14-6 start. The Toros would battle the Quebec Nordiques all season for the Canadian Division title. However, they would end up settling for second place with a solid record of 43-33-2, as Bob LeDuc took over for Billy Harris as a coach in the middle of the season. While Frank Mahovlich was one of the team’s strongest players scoring 38 goals with 44 assists to rank second on the team, it was the Toros young guns that led the way. Wayne Dillon led the team in scoring with 29 goals and 66 assists, while Tom Simpson had a team-high 50 goals. In addition, Vaclav Nedomansky, the first player to defect from Czechoslovakia to play in North America, emerged from the iron curtain and scored 41 goals with 40 assists. However, in the playoffs, the Toros would suffer a major letdown, losing to the San Diego Mariners in six games.
1975/76: The third season in Toronto would see the end of the Toros as the team struggled all season, with coaches Bob Braun and Gilles Leger both being unable to solve the season-long defensive struggles that allowed a league-high 398 goals. The Toros, who at one point during the season suffered a 12 game losing streak, ended the season with seven straight losses, including a 10-6 loss to the Quebec Nordiques in their final game on April 6th. The lone bright spot for the season was the play of Mark Napier, who finished second on the team in scoring with 43 goals and 50 assists as he was named Rookie of the Year. Vaclav Nedomansky would lead the Toros in scoring, with 56 goals and 42 assists, while Frank Mahovlich had another strong season with 89 points. After the season, the Toros unable to secure an extension of their lease with Harold Ballard and Maple Leaf Gardens was forced to find a new home, which ended up being the unlikely spot of Birmingham, Alabama deep in the heart of Dixie.
©MMXX 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 Toronto Toros 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 2, 2013. Last updated on April 10, 2020, at 12:20 am ET.