The 1979–80 NHL season was the 63rd season of the National Hockey League. This season saw the addition of four teams from the disbanded World Hockey Association as expansion franchises. The Edmonton Oilers, Winnipeg Jets, New England Whalers (later renamed "Hartford Whalers" at the insistence of the Boston Bruins), and Quebec Nordiques joined the NHL, bringing the total to 21 teams. The other two WHA teams (Birmingham Bulls and Cincinnati Stingers) were paid to disband.
The season also marked the eighth and final season for the Flames in Atlanta, before the franchise relocated to Calgary. The NHL would return to the Georgia capital in 1999 with the Thrashers, although that team would ultimately abandon the city as well.
The collapse of the WHA also saw the much hyped super-star rookie Wayne Gretzky come to the NHL with the Edmonton Oilers. Gretzky would tie Marcel Dionne for the scoring lead with 137 points and capture the Hart Trophy as the most valuable player while Dionne took home the Art Ross Trophy as the leading scorer by virtue of having scored two more goals. Gretzky aside, many players made their debut in the NHL this season, both due to the WHA merger and to a change in the rules for the Entry Draft allowing eighteen and nineteen year olds to be drafted for the first time; no fewer than six Hall of Famers (Gretzky, Ray Bourque, Mark Messier, Mike Gartner, Michel Goulet and Joe Mullen; Mullen was undrafted) debuted this season along with numerous other perennial stars.
The big story of the regular season was the record-breaking undefeated streak compiled by the Philadelphia Flyers. After starting the season with a 5–2 win over the New York Islanders and a 9–2 loss to the Atlanta Flames, the Flyers did not lose again for nearly three months, earning at least one point in every game between a 4–3 win over Toronto on October 14, 1979, and a 4–2 win over Buffalo on January 6, 1980, a span of 35 games. This stands as the longest undefeated streak in North American professional sports history.
Famous quotes containing the word season:
“Compare ... the cinema with theatre. Both are dramatic arts. Theatre brings actors before a public and every night during the season they re-enact the same drama. Deep in the nature of theatre is a sense of ritual. The cinema, by contrast, transports its audience individually, singly, out of the theatre towards the unknown.”
—John Berger (b. 1926)