Birmingham Bulls

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Birmingham Bulls
Birmingham bulls.png
City Birmingham, Alabama
League World Hockey Association
(1976–1979)
Central Hockey League
(1979–1981)
Operated 1976–1981
Home arena Birmingham Jefferson Convention Center
Franchise history
1972–1973 Ottawa Nationals
1973 playoffs Ontario Nationals
1973–1976 Toronto Toros
1976–1981 Birmingham Bulls

The Birmingham Bulls were a professional ice hockey team based in Birmingham, Alabama, USA. They played in the World Hockey Association from 1976 to 1979 and the Central Hockey League from 1979 to 1981. The Bulls played their home games at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Center.

Prior to being in Birmingham, the team was known as the Ottawa Nationals and the Toronto Toros. In 1992, another Birmingham hockey franchise was founded that used the Bulls name, the Birmingham Bulls of the East Coast Hockey League.

History[edit]

The Toros had been modestly successful on the ice since moving from Toronto, and had drawn fairly well by NHL standards. However, onerous lease terms at Maple Leaf Gardens led owner John Bassett to move to Birmingham.

John Brophy, who would later go on to coach the Leafs, joined head coach Glen Sonmor as an assistant after the move to Birmingham. Brophy became head coach in the 1978–79 when Sonmor joined the Minnesota North Stars. His team finished last in the league, but was in the middle of a youth movement.

Wayne Gretzky was heavily recruited by Birmingham Bulls owner John Bassett to be part of the youth movement.[1] Bassett wanted to confront the NHL by signing as many young and promising superstars as possible and saw Gretzky as the most promising young prospect.

Although Bassett failed to sign Gretzky, the Bulls included several future NHL stars at the beginning of their professional careers (Rick Vaive, Michel Goulet, Rob Ramage, Pat Riggin, Craig Hartsburg, and Gaston Gingras), as well as a 36-year-old Paul Henderson. Even though his team was the only one in the league not to make the playoffs, Brophy was awarded the Robert Schmertz Memorial Trophy as the WHA's coach of the year.[2]

After the WHA[edit]

The Bulls were not included in the WHA-NHL merger of 1979. Even without the WHA's insistence that all of its surviving Canadian teams be included, the NHL was skeptical about putting another team in the South due to the struggles of the Atlanta Flames (who would eventually move to Calgary a year later).

After the WHA ceased operations in 1979, the Birmingham Bulls joined the Central Hockey League, playing during the 1979–80 and 1980–81 seasons. The CHL team included returning coach John Brophy, and six players carried over from the previous season's WHA team, including Paul Henderson, Pat Riggin, Rick Adduono, and Dave Hanson. The team disbanded during its second season.

The last active NHL player from the Bulls was Michel Goulet, who retired in 1994 as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Season-by-season record[edit]

Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against, PIM = Penalties in minutes

World Hockey Association
Season GP W L T Pts GF GA PIM Finish Playoffs
1976–77 81 31 46 4 66 289 309 1179 5th, Eastern Did not qualify
1977–78 80 36 41 3 75 287 314 2177 6th, WHA Lost Quarterfinals (Jets)
1978–79 80 32 42 6 70 286 311 1661 6th, WHA Did not qualify
Totals 241 99 129 13 211 862 934 5017
Central Hockey League
Season GP W L T Pts GF GA PIM Finish Playoffs
1979–80 80 36 39 5 77 260 295 1595 4th, CHL Lost first round
1980–81 58 17 37 4 38 204 277 1593 n/a Incomplete season
Season 138 53 76 9 115 464 572 3188

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Rebel League: The Short and Unruly Life of the World Hockey Association, p.221, McLelland and Stewart, Toronto, ON, ISBN 0-7710-8947-3
  2. ^ Bill Boyd, All Roads Lead to Hockey, 2004, p.102, Key Porter Books, 1-55263-618-6

External links[edit]