The 1978–79 WHA season was the seventh and final season of the World Hockey Association (WHA). Prior to the start of the season, the Houston Aeros folded leaving seven teams to start the season. Only six would finish, however, as the Indianapolis Racers folded after 25 games on the December 15, 1978. The remaining six teams each played 80 games, including one game each per team against a Soviet All-Star squad and the Czechoslovakian National Team, the second consecutive year for this arrangement. The Soviet team won four of their six games and tied another; the Czech team only won once and tied once against four losses. In addition, because the Racers had folded after playing an odd number of games, the Edmonton Oilers played the Finnish National Team (with future Oiler Jari Kurri) once at home so as to allow each of the six surviving WHA teams to play 80 regular season games. The Oilers won by a score of 8-4, a result which in itself made no difference by the end of the regular season which Edmonton won by an eleven point margin over the Quebec Nordiques.
Nelson Skalbania, the owner of Indianapolis Racers, signed the 17-year-old future superstar Wayne Gretzky to, at that time, an unprecedented personal contract worth between 1.125 and 1.75 million dollars over 4 to 7 years; then as now, the National Hockey League's rules did not permit the signing of 17-year-olds. Skalbania, knowing that the WHA's long-term prospects were poor, felt owning the young star was more valuable than owning a WHA team. Eight games into the season, though, Skalbania needed cash and sold Gretzky to his old friend and former partner, Peter Pocklington, owner of the Edmonton Oilers. Pocklington purchased Gretzky and two other Indianapolis players, goaltender Eddie Mio and forward Peter Driscoll, paying $700,000 for the contracts of the three players. On Gretzky's 18th birthday, Pocklington signed him to a 21-year personal services contract worth between 4 and 5 million dollars, the longest in hockey history. Gretzky would go on to capture the Lou Kaplan Trophy for rookie of the year, finish third in league scoring, and help the Oilers to first overall in the league. Nevertheless the Winnipeg Jets defeated Edmonton in the Avco World Trophy finals winning their third championship overall and second in a row.
Playoff format: The top five teams in the league qualified for the playoffs. The 4th and 5th place teams started in a best-of-three quarterfinal series, while the top three finishers received byes into the semifinals. In the semifinals, the 1st place team played the 4th/5th winner, while 2nd place played 3rd place. Both semifinal series were best-of-seven. Since the 2nd and 3rd place teams knew they'd be playing each other in the semifinals, they started their series while the 4th/5th mini-series was still going on. The finals, like the semifinals, were best four-out-of-seven games.
A WHA all-star team played three games against Dynamo Moscow at Edmonton's Northlands Coliseum. The WHA All-Stars were coached by Jacques Demers, who asked Gordie Howe if it was okay to put him on a line with his son Mark Howe and with Wayne Gretzky . In the first game, this line scored seven points, as the WHA All-Stars won by a score of 4-2. In the second game, Gretzky and Mark Howe each scored a goal and Gordie Howe picked up an assist as the WHA won 4-2. The line did not score in the final game but the WHA won by a score of 4-3.