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Wednesday, June 9, 2004
Six teams have arena deals; two more expected

Associated Press

TORONTO -- A new World Hockey Association is set to start playing in October with at least six teams.

Commissioner Bobby Hull, the star player of the WHA of the 1970s, and other businessmen announced Wednesday that teams in Halifax, Nova Scotia; Quebec; Detroit; Dallas; and Orlando and Jacksonville, Fla., have buildings in which to play.

Two Ontario teams, in Toronto and Hamilton, are expected to join them shortly when they secure arena leases.

"A lot of them are in a situation right now where with this announcement they can go ahead and be selling season tickets by the first of next week," Hull said at a news conference.

The NHL's future is murky as its collective bargaining agreement with the players expires Sept. 15.

WHA team owners were frank in their belief that a labor disruption in the NHL would help their league gain fans looking for alternate sources of hockey.

"I'm convinced the CBA creates enough of an uncertainty to give us an opportunity," said Mario Frankovich, one of the owners of the Hamilton franchise and also chairman of the league's board.

The first WHA began in 1971 and became a rival to the NHL as it lured Hull from the Chicago Blackhawks and brought Gordie Howe out of retirement to play for the Houston Aeros with his sons.

The two leagues made a deal in 1979, with Edmonton, Quebec, Winnipeg and Hartford getting absorbed by the NHL and the WHA folding.

A 76-game season beginning Oct. 29. is planned for this edition of the WHA.

The league will have no red line, no-touch icing, touch-up offside and 3-on-3 overtime followed by a shootout.