A look back at 50 years of the World Hockey Association and the legacy that remains – The Athletic

In the spring of 1971, Howard Baldwin was in Boston, reading his morning copy of The Globe, when he spotted an article in the farthest reaches of the sports section. He was referring to a fledgling hockey league that two visionary entrepreneurs, Gary Davidson and Dennis Murphy, hoped to launch.

Davidson and Murphy were the masterminds behind the American Basketball Association and eventually the World Football League. The fact that they were now turning their attention to hockey piqued Baldwin’s interest.

At the time, Baldwin and a friend, John Coburn, ran Coburn’s parents’ clothing store and did little else. Baldwin had previously worked for the Philadelphia Flyers in ticket sales and marketing, but quit his job six months prior. He wanted to get back into the hockey world, and with no particular prospects elsewhere, this new venture – this World Hockey Association – seemed intriguing.

So Baldwin did a little research — the old-fashioned way, using phone books and operator assistance — and finally found a number for the WHA’s headquarters in Newport Beach, California. Baldwin dialed the number – and Murphy himself picked up the phone on about the third ring.

“I just called the blind league office,” Baldwin said. “Dennis made the WHA feel like the biggest business opportunity in the world for us – and we made it look like we were the biggest property possible for them. It ended up bullshitting us – and we We were like a couple of Cheshire cats, circling each other.

About Timothy Cheatham

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