Everyone knows by now what happened with the WHA-NHL Merger in 1979. At that time, the Hartford Whalers, the Winnipeg Jets, the Quebec Nordiques and the Edmonton Oilers were merged into the NHL. Only the Edmonton Oilers still exist in the NHL to this day. But could it have been different?
The year before the announced merger between the WHA and the NHL, the WHA approached the NHL about a larger scale merger that included six teams. They included the NHL four – the Whalers, Nordiques, Jets and the Oilers – but also included the Houston Aeros and the Cincinnati Stingers. At that time, the NHL wasn’t ready to merge. Only the next year, when the NHL decided to bring in teams, the NHL determined to only accept four teams, not the original 6. At that point, the WHA said ok, but with one caveat, the NHL accept the three Canadian teams. Witht he Hartford Whalers being the strongest and most stable WHA franchise, it just made sense to include the Whalers. Unfortunately, that left the Stingers and the Aeros.
But what if the Aeros and the Stingers were brought into the NHL, too? Could that have changed the franchise dynamics in the NHL. Houston would have been the first Texas NHL outfit. If they were successful, the Minnesota North Stars may not have moved in the early 1990’s. WItht eh Stingers (and despite the Cleveland Barons failing as a franchise a couple of years prior, perhaps the Blue Jackets are not included as a new franchise. Bringing them in probably would not have affected teh Whalers move to North Carolina, the Jets move to Phoenix or the Nordiques’s move to Denver. But we as fans would have been spared the likes of the Atlanta Thrashers or the Columbus Blue Jackets.