Name Cincinnati Stingers I
Operated 1973-1979
League World Hockey Association
Home Arena Riverfront Coliseum (U.S. Bank Arena)
Championships None
1973-74 WHA
Did not play
1974-75 WHA
Did not play.
1975-76 WHA 80 35 44 1 0 0 71 .444 4
1976-77 WHA 81 39 37 5 0 0 83 .512 2
1977-78 WHA 80 35 42 3 0 0 73 .456 7
1978-79 WHA 80 33 41 6 0 0 72 .450 5
1973-74 1974-75 1975-76 1976-77 1977-78
1973-74 1974-75 1975-76 1976-77 1977-78
1973-74 1974-75 1975-76 1976-77 1977-78
In 1972, a new major hockey league sprung up known as the World Hockey Association. The rebel league was organized by Gary Davidson and Dennis Murphy, who were also the same entrepreneurs that established the moderately successful American Basketball Association. The WHA hoped to capitalize on a number of major cities that were devoid of NHL teams. The league became an attractive option for many NHL players because the WHA were offering players large contracts and did not recognize the reserve clause. One of the first large contracts was a ten-year deal given to NHL superstar Bobby Hull worth $1.75 million. With the average NHL player salary hovering around $22,000 per year, a million-dollar hockey contract was unheard of at the time.

After a few years of establishing itself and creating its own identity, the WHA continued to grow. One pivotal reason for the league's growth was that there were new arenas being built in cities devoid of a major league hockey team. These cities wanted tenants. So while the NHL was more demanding in setting forth conditions for entry into their league, the WHA saw opportunity. As long as an attractive arena was located in the city of question, the WHA would gladly accept a franchise bid.

Meanwhile Cincinnati lawyer Brian Heekin and a young Bill DeWitt Jr. set out to bring an NHL team to the Queen City. The DeWitt name was well known in Cincinnati due to the fact that Bill DeWitt Sr. was a former owner of the Cincinnati Reds. Bill DeWitt Jr. began to follow in his father's footsteps by investing in the ABA's Kentucky Colonels and becoming a minority owner of the American Hockey League's Cincinnati Swords. When he and Brian Heekin began eyeing an NHL team, their problem was that they had no arena. City officials agreed to subsidize a new arena for a National Hockey League team only, but DeWitt and Heekin would ultimately lose in their bid for an expansion team in the senior league.

Despite the failure of landing an expansion team, the NHL did place Cincinnati at the top of the list for future considerations. The problem was that the league had no plans to expand in the near future. So DeWitt and Heekin turned to the World Hockey Association, a league they initially frowned upon, with hopes that the two major leagues would eventually merge. However, city officials were not thrilled with the prospect of building a new arena for a team that played in a rebel league barely two years old. If Heekin and DeWitt wanted an arena for a WHA team, they'd have to come up with the cash on their own.

After eighteen long months, local banks agreed to buy $20 million in construction bonds for a new arena to be opened in time for the 1975-76 hockey season. On May 6, 1973, the World Hockey Association granted it's first expansion club to Cincinnati. Heekin would be in charge of the building while DeWitt would run the team and be the exclusive negotiator of player contracts.

Since the Cincinnati club had no place to play until 1975, the franchise remained sidelined until the opening of their new building. Despite the downtime, the organization still participated in the amateur drafts and signed players to minor league contracts leading up to their inaugural season. Some players were sent to the Hampton Gulls of the Southern Hockey League, while others would be loaned out to other WHA clubs. For instance, Dennis Sobchuk and John Hughes were both sent to the Phoenix Roadrunners for the 1974-75 season and would play there until the Cincinnati club was ready to reclaim them. It was in 1974 when Cincinnati adopted the team nickname "Stingers".

When the club finally hit the ice the reception was average at best. For their first season, the club's attendance would go up and down with some nights pulling in over 10,000 fans while other nights they would draw only 3,000. By the end of their inaugural season the Stingers averaged about 7,700 fans per game.  While the average increased slightly for the following season, the Stingers draw was never huge. The brand of hockey that the WHA offered was a far tougher sell then the NHL. That coupled with the fact that league was highly unstable. Talks about a merger appeared between the WHA and the NHL following the 1976-77 season. Stingers owner Bill DeWitt Jr. and New England Whalers owner Howard Baldwin led the effort for the WHA and an agreement was reached that would have put the Cincinnati Stingers along with the New England Whalers, Winnipeg Jets, Quebec Nordiques, Edmonton Oilers and Houston Aeros in the NHL for the 1977-78 season. All six WHA clubs would remain intact and play in an NHL division together. This division would then slowly evolve towards a full interlocked schedule in the senior league over five years, but the proposal ultimately failed when NHL owners voted on the merger. The merger failed by one vote.

The WHA and the Stingers limped through two more seasons and by the final season (1978-79), the league which at one point had fourteen teams was now down to six. A new merger proposal was set forth and eventually accepted by the NHL. The new merger proposal, with a price tag of $6 million dollars for each franchise, saw the NHL expand into New England (Hartford), Quebec, Winnipeg and Edmonton. These expansion clubs would replace their WHA clubs. Stingers ownership had the opportunity to join in the NHL expansion but, along with the Birmingham Bulls, they accepted a buy-out fee instead. Both clubs were given a cash payment of $3.15 million each. Cincinnati's players would then be distributed among Edmonton, Quebec, Hartford and Winnipeg. The other existing NHL teams then stepped in and had the option of reclaiming the rights to most of the players that they had lost to WHA clubs.
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