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The Minnesota Fighting Saints were an original WHA Franchise. At the outset, the Saints had a policy of favoring local players, with the 1972–73 roster featuring no fewer than 11 athletes who were either born in Minnesota or American citizens. This was almost unheard of in the early 1970s, when few NHL or WHA teams had even a single American player. Among the players the Saints selected in the inaugural WHA draft in 1972 was a defenseman who had played for Team USA at the 1956 Winter Olympics, Wendell Anderson. Anderson said he was flattered, but he chose not to join the Saints and instead stuck to his day job—as Governor of Minnesota. The Saints folded after the ’75-’76 season, but got a second chance when the Cleveland Crusaders moved to Minnesota for the ’76-’77 season. They changed their colors to Scarlet and Gold but folded at the end of the season.
Notable Players: Mike Walton, Dave Keon, John McKenzie
*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 NHL since the collapse of the Western Hockey League in 1926.
The WHA hoped to capitalize on the lack of hockey teams in a number of major cities, and it also hoped to attract the best players by paying more than NHL owners would. The WHA successfully challenged the reserve clause, which bound players to their NHL teams even without a valid contract, allowing players in both leagues greater freedom of movement. Sixty-seven players jumped from the NHL to the WHA in the first year, led by star forward Bobby Hull, whose ten-year, $2.75 million contract was a record at the time. Unlike the NHL, the WHA also signed many European players.
The WHA had an acrimonious relationship with the NHL, resulting in numerous legal battles, as well as competition for control of players and markets. In spite of this, merger talks began almost immediately, as the WHA was constantly unstable, with franchises occasionally relocating or folding in the middle of the season. As a result, four teams, the Edmonton Oilers, New England Whalers, Quebec Nordiques, and Winnipeg Jets joined the NHL for the 1979–80 season, and the WHA ceased operations.
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