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Ottawa Nationals/Toronto Toros team MVRP


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  This is the last of the WHA team histories with the exceptions of the four who entered the NHL (Hartford, Quebec, Winnipeg and Edmonton). I will get around to them some time but here is the Ottawa Nationals-Toronto Toros team history/MVRP.


  When the World Hockey Association was being formed the decision was made that Ontario needed to have a club- kind of a no brainer. The idea was to hopefully go to Toronto but a decent lease could not be worked out and Ontaria was chosen instead.

  Former Maple Leaf Billy Harris was signed to coach and a decent collection of talent was put together, the original owner was forced out in a power play but the new owner kept him around as a sort of GM/judge of talent.

  They were led by NHL castoffs such as Wayne Carleton from the Bruins and Bob Charlebois with dependable goaltending, a rarity in the new league led by Les Blinkley and space cadet extraordinaire Gilles Gratton. Gratton actually believed that he had lived many different lives and left a game because of a sore side, a result of a spear injury several thousand years previously. Really. 

  They could not draw worth a damn, 3,000 fans a game on an average night, in spite of playing okay hockey. Gavin Kirk was an underage junior who they signed and he pitched in with 68 points and Guy Trottier finished out the best of the skil players. They made the playoffs, Ottawa said they would only free up the arena if the team gave them a one hundred thousand dollar cheque to guarantee they were coming back the following year, instead they played the playoffs in Toronto, got knocked out After that they got a new owner, John Bassett who settled them permanently in Toronto.

   Bassett did his best, our pal Hal was doing time for tax evasion and Bassett did a deal with the crazy old coot's son for the team to play at the Garden, by the time Ballard the senior got out and was back in charge he was enraged and did everything possible to embarrass and run the new team out of town.

  Bassett raided juniors signing Pat Hickey among others and then to stick it to Hal he brought in former Leafs such as Carl Brewer, Frank Mahovlich and Summit series hero Paul Henderson, raiding the Leafs organization whenever possible with glee. Vaclav Nedomansky came over as one of the first Iron Curtain Deflections, signing with the Toros a bit past his prime but still one hell of a player.

  The club made the playoffs and played good solid hockey the first two seasons in Toronto but the third year the wheels fell off. Harris moved on as coach and was replaced by long time Leaf Bob Baun. With close to the same roster and adding long time leaf Jim Dorey and raiding juniors for Mark Napier they thought they were set but the wheels fell off, Binkley was wretched, John Garrett, brought in to replace Gilles Gratton who had left to go the moon or somewhere was okay but not the savior. The team slipped from 88 points to 53 and Bassett moved the team as far away from the harassment from Ballard, all the way to Birmingham Alabama where the Toros became the Bulls.


  GAVIN KIRK a young man signed from juniors played the most games in Toros history with 218 and led the club in career points as well with 207. TOM SIMPSON was the first Toro to score 50 goals and also was the all time leader in goals scored with 105. VACLAV NEDOMANSKY managed 179 points in his two years there in 159 games after defecting from the Czech Republic. RICK CUNNINGHAM a career minor leaguer who jumped to the WHA was the all time leader in PIMs.

  Overall the club was not a bad team, they made the playoffs three seasons in a row, first in Ottawa then in Toronto with notable name players, but they could never recover from the interference from Ballard who hated the league and especially hated sharing his city with a club from the upstart league. Bassett was one of the big boys of the league, a great owner who gave all he had and is an unsung hero of getting four clubs to the NHL eventually even if his Birmingham boys were not one of them.


  If only Bassett could have held on in Toronto for a few more years. I am convinced beyond a shadow of any doubt that if he had done so his Toros, who averaged over 10,000 fans a game would have been added with the other clubs and Toronto, a lot like New York and Los Angeles would have two NHL teams today and would for the past 35 years. Toronto would be a shared city. I am convinced it would have worked then and could now.


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