Saturday, July 03, 2004

WHA works out some missing details, but leaves other questions unanswered

One team has a coach and an office, another features a General Manager, a name and a rink. So far, so good for some! For others it seems that no news is good news. Such is a day in the life of the WHA II. The Quebec franchise has announced that Martin Madden will become the debut General Manager for the fledgling team, with 30 years experience with pro and junior hockey it’s expected he’ll be able to stock the Quebec team with some quality players. Over in Detroit they have a name the Gladiators and a coach under contract, Moe Mantha who has extensive NHL experience as a player and managerial experience with the US national program is most likely to focus on American players for his new franchise, who will play their games in of all places the Pontiac Silverdome.

The league also moved back its draft date, with a flurry of free agents suddenly appearing on the hockey market the league decided that July 10 and 11 would be too soon, instead league GM’s will gather July 17 and 18 at a Casino in Niagara Falls to stock their teams. The new date also clears the league from competing for media attention with the Toronto Indy.

The optics of holding your organizational meeting at a gambling Mecca is better left for the deep thinkers, mind you since picking players can be perceived as a crap shoot, perhaps it’s not that out of place. If nothing else the owners may be able to finance their franchises with a lucky hit on the slots or a roll of the roulette wheels.

Once they tear themselves away from the gaming tables it will be down to work. On draft day the WHA franchise holders will select 30 NHL/AHL free agents and then on the 18th turn their attention to the Entry draft where another 30 entry free agents will be chosen. After that it’s up to each individual team to make the necessary financial arrangements to get their new stable up and running.

The mid point of July will be an interesting timeline for the new league. If it’s truly going to be ready for its 38 game season some forward movement in franchises, staffing and scheduling are going to need to be made. So far Detroit and Quebec seem to be the only two, of the seven or eight announced franchises that so have so much as a fax machine and a telephone line. For this league to be taken at all seriously there had better be some kind of concrete developments very shortly.

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