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Toronto Toros

Toronto Toros

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The Toronto Toros were an ice hockey
Ice hockey
Ice hockey, often referred to as hockey, is a team sport played on ice, in which skaters use wooden or composite sticks to shoot a hard rubber puck into their opponent's net. The game is played between two teams of six players each. Five members of each team skate up and down the ice trying to take...

 team based in Toronto
Toronto is the provincial capital of Ontario and the largest city in Canada. It is located in Southern Ontario on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. A relatively modern city, Toronto's history dates back to the late-18th century, when its land was first purchased by the British monarchy from...

 that played in the World Hockey Association
World Hockey Association
The World Hockey Association was a professional ice hockey league that operated in North America from 1972 to 1979. It was the first major competition for the National Hockey League since the collapse of the Western Hockey League in 1926...

 from 1973 to 1976.

The franchise was awarded to Doug Michel in 1971 to play in the WHA's inaugural 1972–73 season. Initially, he had discussions with Harold Ballard
Harold Ballard
Harold E. Ballard was an owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs of the National Hockey League as well as their home arena, Maple Leaf Gardens. A member of the Leafs organization from 1940 and a senior executive from 1957, he became part-owner of the team in 1961 and was majority owner from February...

, owner of Maple Leaf Gardens
Maple Leaf Gardens
Maple Leaf Gardens is an indoor arena that was converted into a Loblawssupermarket and Ryerson University athletic centre in Toronto, on the northwest corner of Carlton Street and Church Street in Toronto's Garden District.One of the temples of hockey, it was home to the Toronto Maple Leafs of the...

 and the Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs are a professional ice hockey team based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. They are members of the Northeast Division of the Eastern Conference of the National Hockey League...

, about locating the team in Toronto, but the talks didn't get very far. He then tried to base the team in Hamilton
Hamilton, Ontario
Hamilton is a port city in the Canadian province of Ontario. Conceived by George Hamilton when he purchased the Durand farm shortly after the War of 1812, Hamilton has become the centre of a densely populated and industrialized region at the west end of Lake Ontario known as the Golden Horseshoe...

, but it didn't have an appropriate venue. Michel settled on Ottawa
Ottawa is the capital of Canada, the second largest city in the Province of Ontario, and the fourth largest city in the country. The city is located on the south bank of the Ottawa River in the eastern portion of Southern Ontario...

 and the team became the Ottawa Nationals
Ottawa Nationals
The Ottawa Nationals were a professional men's ice hockey team based out of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada that played in the World Hockey Association during the 1972–73 WHA season....

. Nick Trbovich became majority owner in May 1972.

The team was a flop at the box office, averaging about 3,000 fans a game, and in March 1973 — just before the end of the season — the City of Ottawa demanded payment of $100,000 to guarantee the club dates at the Ottawa Civic Centre
Ottawa Civic Centre
The Ottawa Civic Centre, also known as the J. Benson Cartage Centre for 2011–2012, is an indoor arena located in Ottawa, Ontario, seating 9,862. With temporary seating and standing room it can hold 10,585. Opened in December 1967, it is used primarily for sports, including curling, figure skating,...

. The team decided to leave Ottawa and played their home playoff games at Maple Leaf Gardens, attracting crowds of 5,000 and 4,000 in two games before being eliminated by the New England Whalers. During this playoff series, the team was referred to as the "Ontario Nationals". At the end of the season, the team moved to Toronto permanently, and was sold to John F. Bassett, son of media mogul and former Leafs part-owner John Bassett
John Bassett
John White Hughes Bassett, was a Canadian publisher and media baron.Born in Ottawa, Ontario, he was the son of John Bassett , publisher of the Montreal Gazette, and Margaret Avery. Bassett attended Ashbury College and graduated from Bishop's University with a BA in 1936...

. Future Leafs owner Steve Stavro
Steve Stavro
Steve Atanas Stavro, CM , born Manoli Stavroff Sholdas, was a Macedonian Canadian businessman, grocery store magnate, Thoroughbred racehorse owner/breeder, sports team owner, and a noted philanthropist....

 was a minority shareholder. They were renamed the Toronto Toros in June 1973.

Initially, Bassett wanted to move the team into a renovated CNE Coliseum
Ricoh Coliseum
Ricoh Coliseum is an ice hockey and agricultural arena at Exhibition Place in Toronto. It serves as the home arena of the Toronto Marlies, the American Hockey League farm team of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Toronto Triumph of the Lingerie Football League. It was formerly known as the CNE...

, while Bill Ballard
Bill Ballard
William Ballard is a businessman and concert promoter. He is the son of Toronto Maple Leafs hockey mogul Harold Ballard.Bill Ballard was a founder of Concert Productions International , a major promoter of rock concerts and tours in North America...

 — Harold's son, who was running the Gardens while his father served a prison sentence — wanted the team at the Gardens and opposed the plan to upgrade the Coliseum. The Toros ended up at Varsity Arena
Varsity Arena
Varsity Arena is an arena in Toronto, Ontario. It is located at 299 Bloor Street West and is primarily home to the ice hockey teams of the University of Toronto, the Varsity Blues, though it also hosted the Toronto Toros of the WHA from 1973–74 and the Toronto Planets of the RHI in 1993...

 for the 1973–74 season. Bassett signed forwards Pat Hickey
Pat Hickey
Patrick Joseph Hickey is a retired Canadian professional ice hockey left winger who played 10 seasons in the NHL for the New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Quebec Nordiques and St. Louis Blues.-Playing career:...

 and Wayne Dillon
Wayne Dillon
Gerald Wayne Dillon is a retired professional ice hockey centre.-Playing career:Wayne Dillon spent four years in the NHL and was known as a top scorer in the WHA and junior leagues. He was chosen 12th overall by the New York Rangers in the 1975 NHL Amateur Draft and recorded 44 points his rookie...

 to aid the offensive attack. He also made a strong attempt to sign Leaf centre Darryl Sittler
Darryl Sittler
Darryl Glen Sittler is a retired professional ice hockey player who played in the National Hockey League from 1970 until 1985 for the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Philadelphia Flyers and the Detroit Red Wings. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1989.On February 7, 1976, Sittler set an NHL...

, and thought he had an agreement for a five-year $1 million contract, but Sittler re-signed with the Leafs. The Toros played to a 41-33-4 record in the regular season, bolstered by goaltenders Gilles Gratton
Gilles Gratton
Gilles Gratton is a retired ice hockey goaltender.Gratton began his WHA career in 1972 with the Ottawa Nationals. Gilles would also spend time with the Toronto Toros. His brother, Norm Gratton was a professional NHL player as well...

 and Les Binkley
Les Binkley
Leslie John Binkley is a Canadian former professional ice hockey player. Binkley played goaltender in the National Hockey League for the Pittsburgh Penguins, in the World Hockey Association for the Ottawa Nationals and Toronto Toros...

 and a strong defensive corps backstopped by ex-Maple Leaf star Carl Brewer
Carl Brewer
Carl Thomas Brewer was a Canadian ice hockey defenceman. He had attended De La Salle College prior to his hockey career....

. The Toros also fared well in the playoffs, making it to the Eastern Conference final, only to lose to the Chicago Cougars
Chicago Cougars
The Chicago Cougars were an original franchise in the World Hockey Association from 1972 to 1975. The Cougars played their home games in the dilapidated International Amphitheatre. During the 1974 Avco Cup Finals against Gordie Howe and the Houston Aeros, the team's two home games were played at...


The Toros moved to the Gardens for the 1974–75 season. However, by this time Harold Ballard had regained control of the Gardens. Ballard was a virulent opponent of the WHA; he never forgave the upstart league for nearly decimating the Leafs' roster in the early 1970s. He deliberately made the Toros' lease terms at the Gardens as onerous as possible. The Toros' lease with Maple Leaf Gardens Ltd. called for them to pay $15,000 per game. However, much to Bassett's outrage, the arena was dim for the first game. It was then that Ballard demanded $3,500 for use of the lights. Ballard also denied the Toros access to the Leafs' locker room, forcing them to build their own at a cost of $55,000. He also removed the cushions from the home bench for Toros' games (he told an arena worker, "Let 'em buy their own cushions!"). It was obvious that Ballard was angered at the WHA being literally in his backyard, and took his frustration on the renegade league out on the Toros.

Despite the financial difficulties, the Toros managed to strengthen themselves in the off-season. They signed two ex-Leafs: former NHL superstar Frank Mahovlich
Frank Mahovlich
Francis William "The Big M" Mahovlich, CM is a Canadian Senator, and a retired NHL ice hockey player, nicknamed the "Big M." He played on six Stanley Cup-winning teams and is an inductee of the Hockey Hall of Fame.-Playing career:...

 and the hero from the 1972 Summit Series
Summit Series
The Summit Series was the first competition between the Soviet and an NHL-inclusive Canadian national ice hockey teams, an eight-game series held in September 1972...

, Paul Henderson
Paul Henderson
Paul Henderson is a Canadian former professional ice hockey player. A left winger, Henderson played 13 seasons in the National Hockey League for the Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs and Atlanta Flames...

, as well as Czech star Vaclav Nedomansky
Vaclav Nedomansky
Václav Nedomanský Václav Nedomanský Václav Nedomanský (born March 14, 1944 in Hodonín, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic), is a former hockey forward. He is best known as the first hockey player to defect to North America to play.-Playing in Czechoslovakia:...

, who defected to Toronto. Tom Simpson became the first professional hockey player in Toronto to have a 50-goal season, scoring 52 goals (a number he would never come close to matching again). The Toros finished the year with the league's fifth-best record at 43-33-2, but were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round by the San Diego Mariners
San Diego Mariners
The San Diego Mariners were an ice hockey team based in San Diego that played in the World Hockey Association. They played from 1974 to 1977. Their home ice was San Diego Sports Arena...

. The Toros were now averaging 10,000 fans per home game.

In part due to the expenses associated with playing in the Gardens, the Toros bottomed out in the 1975–76 season. They finished with a horrible 24-52-5 record—the worst in the league—under coach Bobby Baun
Bobby Baun
Robert Neil "Bob, Boomer" Baun is a retired professional ice hockey defenceman who played in the National Hockey League for 17 seasons from 1956–57 to 1972–73.-Playing career:...

, despite Nedomansky's 56 goals and the signing of 18 year-old Mark Napier, who scored 93 points in his rookie year. The Toros still averaged over 8,000 fans per game, which was a 20 percent drop from the previous year.

Following the season, with the drop in attendance and onerous lease terms at the Gardens, Bassett moved the club to Birmingham, Alabama
Birmingham, Alabama
Birmingham is the largest city in Alabama. The city is the county seat of Jefferson County. According to the 2010 United States Census, Birmingham had a population of 212,237. The Birmingham-Hoover Metropolitan Area, in estimate by the U.S...

, where they were renamed the Birmingham Bulls
Birmingham Bulls
The Birmingham Bulls were a professional ice hockey team based in Birmingham, Alabama, USA. They played in the World Hockey Association from 1976 to 1979 and the Central Hockey League from 1979 to 1981. The Bulls played their home games at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Center.Prior to being...

 for the 1976–77 season.

Season-by-season record

Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against, PIM = Penalties in minutes
Season (sports)
In an organized sports league, a season is the portion of one year in which regulated games of the sport are in session. For example, in Major League Baseball, one season lasts approximately from April 1 through October 1; in Association football, it is generally from August until May In an...

GP W L T Pts GF GA PIM Finish Playoffs
1973–74 Toronto Toros season
The 1973–74 Toronto Toros season was the team's first season in Toronto, as they spent their inaugural season as the Ottawa Nationals in 1972-73.-Offseason:...

78 41 33 4 86 304 272 871 2nd, Eastern Won Quarterfinals (Cleveland
Cleveland Crusaders
The Cleveland Crusaders were a professional ice hockey team from Cleveland, Ohio. The Crusaders were founded by Nick Mileti, and played in the World Hockey Association from 1972 to 1976...

Lost Semifinals (Chicago
Chicago Cougars
The Chicago Cougars were an original franchise in the World Hockey Association from 1972 to 1975. The Cougars played their home games in the dilapidated International Amphitheatre. During the 1974 Avco Cup Finals against Gordie Howe and the Houston Aeros, the team's two home games were played at...

1974–75 Toronto Toros season
The 1974–75 Toronto Toros season was the team's second season in Toronto, after spending their inaugural season as the Ottawa Nationals in 1972-73...

78 43 33 2 88 349 304 883 2nd, Canadian Lost Quarterfinals (San Diego
San Diego Mariners
The San Diego Mariners were an ice hockey team based in San Diego that played in the World Hockey Association. They played from 1974 to 1977. Their home ice was San Diego Sports Arena...

1975–76 Toronto Toros season
The 1975–76 Toronto Toros season was the team's third season in Toronto, fourth of the franchise. The Toros missed the playoffs.-Game log:-Scoring leaders:-Goaltending:-Draft picks:Toronto's draft picks at the 1975 WHA Amateur Draft....

81 24 52 5 53 335 398 1099 4th, Canadian Did not qualify
Totals 237 108 118 11 227 988 974 2853

External links