Founded in 1971, the World Hockey Association began competing with the established National Hockey League in the 1972-73 season.
Though it lasted only seven seasons, the WHA had a tremendous impact on the game and its players that lasts to this day.
Its first major coup was to challenge the NHL's draconian reserve clause, which bound players to their respective teams for life. Freed by the courts, players were finally able to choose where they wanted to work, leading to a dramatic increase in salaries, even for those who never played in the WHA.
The WHA opened up the world of major-league hockey to many underserved and nontraditional markets like Edmonton, Winnipeg, Quebec, Hartford, Ottawa, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis and Phoenix, many of which the NHL would later move into.
The league also opened up the North American game to the pool of talent in Europe previously overlooked by the more conservative NHL. The Winnipeg Jets led the way in bringing in Swedish stars Anders Hedberg, Ulf Nilsson and Lars-Erik Sjoberg, and the result was a fast-skating style that would eventually make its way into the NHL. Hedberg and Nilsson would combine with Bobby Hull to form the “Hot Line,” one of the greatest trios of all time.
Despite the financial challenges the WHA faced, many of the its teams were on par with the best the rival NHL had to offer.
Following the 1978-79 season, four of the WHA's remaining teams - Edmonton, Winnipeg, New England (Hartford) and Quebec - would join the NHL, bringing down the curtain on the WHA's memorable run. Yet despite the WHA's demise so long ago, it still remains a thorn in the side of the NHL, which has carried a grudge that has spanned generations.