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March 14, 2005 - Report: WHA aiming for spring tourney

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Report: WHA aiming for spring tourney

According to a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the on-again, off-again existence of a new World Hockey Association is on again...maybe.

The newspaper talks with investors Ricky Smith and Mark McKelvie about their plans, with Smith claiming that 16 cities could house WHA franchises, but that the more likely number would be ten to start.

In order to jumpstart the league, however, there is talk of a Bobby Hull Invitational tournament being held from May 20 to June 2 in which there is a $2-million, winner-take-all prize, with games being held in Hamilton and Vancouver.  Players would receive $20,000 each for participating.

While it might sound like a long shot, Philadelphia Flyers star Jeremy Roenick is trying to recruit as many players as he can for the tournament. 


"We're trying to put some money into guys' pockets," Roenick told the Inquirer. "People are dying to see some hockey in Canada. It can be a good thing. We've been wanting to do something like this for some time now."

The paper says Roenick has interest from Flyers teammates Robert Esche, Tony Amonte, Keith Primeau, Sean Burke and former Flyer Mark Recchi.

"We're grateful for NHLers coming to the tournament and we want to show them what wide-open hockey would look like in the WHA," Smith said.

Smith and McKelvie are hoping that the tournament will spur interest in the WHA brand of hockey and allow the league to start play in October. 

It won't be easy. 

They've found that it is difficult to get viable venues since NHL teams control the arenas in most larger market cities.

NHL Legal Counsel Bill Daly is not surprised that the WHA has had a difficult time getting off the ground. "The WHA's failure to get off the ground this year is not at all surprising," Daly told the Inquirer. "I think it speaks to the enormous commitment, resources and capital that are necessary to operate a professional sports league, and to just how difficult it can be to find owners and organizations willing to contribute those things, as well as to assume the risk, economic and otherwise, of failing to succeed."