The WHA Hall of Fame is pleased to present a series of in-depth interviews featuring former Houston Aeros and other WHA personnel who spoke to Chuck Swanlund about their time in Houston and/or the WHA.
Many thanks to Chuck for making them available to the WHA community.
Following four years at Denver University, Rich Preston signed with the Houston Aeros in the summer of 1974. As part of his four seasons in Houston, he was a member of the 1974-75 AVCO Cup champions and scored 105 goals for the Aeros. In the summer of 1978, he joined many of his teammates in moving on to Winnipeg, where he and the new-look Jets captured another AVCO Cup. The WHA’s last playoff MVP then went on to Chicago and New Jersey to complete a distinguished pro career that spanned 968 regular-season games and 98 playoff games. After hanging up the blades, he stayed in the game and coached for many years in the NHL and in the junior ranks.
This interview was conducted by phone on December 16, 2017.
Brian McDonald was one of many veterans with multiple stops in the NHL who joined the new league when he signed with the Houston Aeros in the summer of 1972, where he would play for former Denver teammate Bill Dineen. After one season in Houston, he was traded to Los Angeles and then to Indianapolis, where he wound up his 13-year pro career following three seasons with the Racers.
This interview was conducted by phone on August 4, 2017.
Following four years at Denver University, Ron Grahame signed with the Houston Aeros in the summer of 1973. The third goaltender behind Don “Smokey” McLeod and Wayne Rutledge, he spent much of his first pro season in the minors, but he made the most of his chance the following year, his first of three standout seasons in Houston. A two-time winner of the Ben Hatskin Trophy as the league’s best goaltender, he was also the playoff MVP in 1975. He moved on to Boston and Los Angeles and finished his pro career with Quebec. He was a member of the inaugural class of the WHA Hall of Fame.
This interview was conducted by phone on August 18, 2017.
Following three years of junior hockey in London, Scott Campbell chose to sign with the Houston Aeros over the NHL’s St. Louis Blues. After his rookie year, he joined many of his teammates in moving on to Winnipeg, where he helped lead the Jets to the AVCO Cup in the league’s last season. The Jets made him one of their two priority selections when entering the NHL, but he missed most of the 1980-81 season with a shoulder injury and subsequently was forced to retire due to a chronic asthma condition. He passed away on September 3, 2022.
This interview was conducted by phone on August 6, 2018.
In the summer of 1972, Andre Lacroix left the Chicago Black Hawks to join the Philadelphia Blazers. Over the course of the next seven years, he went on to play for several different teams, giving him a unique perspective on the history of the league. All the while, he continued his stellar play. He was a three-time First Team All-Star, won the scoring title twice and was the league’s all-time leading point-getter. He was a member of the inaugural class of the WHA Hall of Fame.
This interview was conducted by phone on December 13, 2017.
In the summer of 1972, John Schella left the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks to sign with the Houston Aeros, where he would play for Bill Dineen, his former teammate in Denver. Over the next six years, the hard-nosed, physical defenseman would become a mainstay on the Aeros blue line, amassing nearly 1,000 penalty minutes over the course of 385 regular-season and 66 playoff games in the process. He passed away on August 3, 2018.
This interview was conducted by phone on December 14, 2017.
A former college football and junior hockey player, Darryl Havrelock signed on as a part-time official with the WHA in 1972. He would go on to work in the WHA for the next seven years, primarily in Western Canada.
This interview was conducted by phone on April 9, 2018.
The fifth-overall pick in the 1974 NHL Amateur Draft by the Montreal Canadiens, Cam Connor instead opted to sign with the WHA’s Phoenix Roadrunners. Following two seasons in Phoenix, the tough, rugged winger moved on to Houston, where he spent two years with the Aeros. In addition to racking up over 900 penalty minutes during his time in the WHA, he tallied 83 goals, including a career-high 35 in the 1976-77 season, his first in Houston. With the demise of the Aeros in 1978, he signed with Montreal and spent parts of the next five years with three different NHL teams.
This interview was conducted by phone on November 22, 2017.
In the summer of 1974, Al McLeod left the Detroit Red Wings’ organization and signed on with the WHA’s Phoenix Roadrunners, where he was named the team captain. Midway through his third season in Phoenix, he was traded to Houston, where he spent the next season and a half. Following the Aeros’ demise, he moved on to Indianapolis and retired when the Racers folded on December 15, 1978.
Jack Stanfield was one of many minor-league veterans who joined the new league when he signed with the Houston Aeros in the summer of 1972. Following two seasons in Houston as a player, he moved into management and also worked play-by-play on the team’s radio and TV broadcasts alongside Jerry Trupiano. After the Aeros folded, he worked in the television industry, helping to found Home Sports Entertainment, a regional cable network.
Veteran broadcaster Mike Fornes, who worked for the Racers and Whalers, shares some stories about Gordie Howe.
In the summer of 1973, Mark Howe signed with the Houston Aeros as an underage junior, joining his brother Marty and father Gordie, who had come out of retirement, on the same team. Following four years in Houston, the three Howes left for New England. Mark spent five seasons in Hartford before being traded to Philadelphia, where he spent the next ten years. He finished his pro career with the Detroit Red Wings, the team his father had starred for. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2011 and the Flyers retired his #2 in 2012.
This interview was conducted by phone on November 9, 2017.
In addition, Chuck Swanlund and Nordiques/WHA historian Benoît Clairoux are each featured on The Packaged Tourist Show.