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From Sharks to Stags to Blades (MVRP)


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Another WHA franchise. It is a little bit of work but i have fun doing these whether anyone reads them or not is irrelevant i am writting them for love of the game.
  This Week the Los Angeles Sharks Michigan Stags Baltimore Blades


  1972-73 when the WHA first opened for business they decided to enter markets where Hockey had not been before but also decided to take on established clubs in cities such as Boston, New York, Piladelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles. So while cities such as Quebec, Houston, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Cleveland, Minneapolis and Ottawa were all established minor league cities getting a taste of the top rival league, the larger cities were facing live action from rival clubs out to encroach upon their fan base.

  Originally the club was to be named the Los Angeles Aces and for some reason when the San Francisco Sharks folded before the first season and moved to Quebec the team decided the y like the name Sharks better so Quebec got the team, LA took the name.

  Of these The Kings in LA seemed to be primed to be plucked by the new league, only in existence for five years with no real success the new LA Sharks franchise seemed to be a good bet to push the Kings for the cities hearts and minds, as well as their wallets.

  The Sharks decided to put a team together of a lot of older NHL third and  fourth loners as well as a group of over thirties goalies playing out the string on mediocre careers. The best players on the Sharks the first year were Gary Veneruzzo, J.P Leblanc who went on to toil for the Wings after the WHA, the coolest name in hockey history Bart Crashley played very well the first season and the second black player in major hockey history, following Willie O'ree, a young man by the name of Alton White, a black player who had labored for near a decade in the minors before getting his shot in the WHA scoring 21 goals with 21 assists.

  The club made the playoffs the first year and drew respectably and decided that Veneruzzo who had double the goals of anyone else on the club needed help and a little star power would help draw fans. They raided the NHL and signed budding star Marc Tardif to be the face of the franchise away from the Canadians. He had the looks, the problem was he spoke very poor at best english and was not able to help the cause of drawing fans to the arena. A solid player, he had a slightly dissapointming season in the Sharks second year,

  The team had one line, led by Veneruzzo and tardiff and finished dead last, with the fewest goals scored in the league. It was poor timing, the Kings had a solid year, Marcel Dionne captured the fans in the way that Tardif who was quiet and reserved and barely spoke the language could not, fans quit coming, additions to the team such as Ron Ward, Reg Thomas and Steve Sutherland could not help overcome the shortcomings of the roster and they lost their fanbase, moving to Detroit to become the Michigan Stags for year three of the WHA.

  Big excitement in Detroit when the club came, not so much because of the Stags themselves, but because gordie Howe and his boys would be playing in Detroit again, scheduled to come to town in February.

  The club was awful, the marketing was worse. They let the over the hill net minders go and signed Gerry Desjardins to man the pipes, a solid signing but offensively the club continued to struggle, Tardif was miserable in Detroit and the new owners were none to happy with his contract as they were barely drawing 3,000 a game, so he was dealt to Quebec for Pierre Guite. Tardif went on to become a superstar in Quebec, first with the WHA and then with the NHL after the merger. He made a wonderful life for himself in one of the most charming ciies in northern america, owning a car dealership after retirement.

 Pierre Guite went on to become Pierre Guite.

  THe owners pulled the plug on the Stags in January, severing the bleeding a month before the Howes were to come to town for the first time since the rival league began. The league took the club over and moved them out of Detroit because they also inherited the bills that went along with the club and had zero intention or ability to pay them, and thus for half a season the Baltimore Blades were around.

  From January til the end of the season the Baltimore Blades played in the Civic Center and were just as wretched and people stayed away in droves. This was a bad club, finishing with a combined 21-53-4 record, but finishing. Baltimore did not want them back, the league could not find owners to take the team, and they along with the Chicago Cougars folded after year three, having a dispersal draft of all the players.

  A list of some players who went through the organization:


 GARY VENERUZZO Minor league star who never caught a break, only playing seven games in the NHL. His greatest thrill came in 1968 when the Scotty Bowman led Blues made the playoffs and lacking offense called up Veneruzzo who could always score (but was known to be a bit of a coaster on defense) and Veneruzzo played in the playoffs including the Stanley Cup finals against the Canadiens. In the three years of the Sharks/Stags/Blades Veneruzzo scored, 115 goals.


 MARC TARDIF A forgotten star. If he had played his entire career with the NHL he would certainly be a Hall of Famer. His full year with the Sharks he quietly scored 40 goals.


 BART CRASHLEY   Played both seasons in Los Angeles listed here not so much because of anything he did on the ice but because i never tire of saying the name. Bart Crashley.


 ALTON WHITE  Not listed in the record books as the second black player (Mike Marson is) because White never made it to the NHL. He came to the Sharks from the Raiders in an early season trade and stayed with the organization thru all three seasons. Deserves to be mentioned.


GERRY DESJARDINS  A solid goalie who had been a main stay with the Blackhawks, Kings and Islanders before stumbling to the WHA he aactually played very well for the Blades and Stags despite a wretched record. He got out of his contract before years end, (the organization was happy by that point to save money anywhere they could) and returned to the NHL with the Buffalo Sabres and helped lead them to the Stanley cup finals where they lost to the Flyers in the first final ever to not feature an original six club. Likeable guy, hung around for another three years with the Sabres.



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