Happy 80th to Edmonton Oiler Norm Ullman, perhaps the most underrated player in hockey history. He scored 490 goals over 22 NHL seasons. He scored number 500 in the WHA on December 10, 1975 vs. the Quebec Nordiques.
Of his stay in the "Rebel League" Ullman states:
"I thought it might be nice to go back and finish my career where it all started. So I went there and had a really good time. It seemed to be a little more relaxing than playing in the National Hockey League. The calibre wasn't up to the NHL, but it was pretty good hockey and they had a fair number of players that moved into the NHL."
Thommie Bergman turns 67 today. He was the first of the Swedes to play in North America in the 1970s. A rugged blueliner, he spent two years with the Detroit Red Wings before joining the WHA Winnipeg Jets in 1974-75.
After the 1977-78 campaign, he jumped back to Detroit where he finished his career.
1978 After 8 games with the Indianapolis Racers of the WHA, Wayne Gretzky was sold to the Edmonton Oilers (along with Eddie Mio and Peter Driscoll). Gretzky went on to score 104 points in 72 games and was named WHA Rookie of the Year.
Danny Lawson recalled the WHA's wild side:
According to Lawson, things were equally exciting off the ice (as told to Murray Greig): "The off-ice stuff was just wild. One night after a game in New York the team stopped off at a little bar in Blackwood, New Jersey. It turned out that a gang of bikers used this bar as one of their favorite hangouts, and they showed up just after we got there. They started mouthing off, and one of them threw a shot glass at our table and hit Marcel Paille in the head.
"That did it. A big tough defenseman named Dave Hutchinson ran over and grabbed the biggest biker and was getting ready to plow his face through the window when the guy reached up with a choke wire and tried to get it around Dave's neck, so Dave dragged him outside like a side of beef and proceeded to beat the sh** out of him. By this time everyone else was fighting and throwing bottles and glasses, and a couple of minutes later a whole squad of cops showed up.
"It was pretty messy. Guys were cut up, and thee was blood all over the place. But it sure brought our team closer together. Bernie (Parent) ended up with a broken finger, and he missed game because of it, but word never leaked out about how it happened. The club did some fancy talking and none of us faced serious charges. It was all covered up."