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Indianapolis Racers
Indianapolis racers.png
City Indianapolis, Indiana
League World Hockey Association
Operated 1974 to 1978
Home arena Market Square Arena
Colors Blue, white and red
Division Championships 1975–76 (East)

The Indianapolis Racers were a franchise in the former World Hockey Association from 1974–78. They competed in five seasons, folding 25 games into the 1978–79 season. They played at Market Square Arena. They are best-known for being the first professional team to secure the services of Wayne Gretzky.

The WHA began the 1978–79 season with seven teams, and the dying league would go to almost any length to try and stay afloat. The NHL had rules regarding the age of players that could play while the WHA didn't. Nelson Skalbania, the owner of the Racers, signed 17 year old future super-star, Wayne Gretzky to, at that time, a whopping personal contract worth between 1.125 and 1.75 million dollars over 4 to 7 years. Skalbania, knowing that the WHA was fading, felt owning the young star was more valuable than owning a WHA team. Just eight games into the season, though, Skalbania needed cash and liquidated his greatest asset to his old friend and former partner, Peter Pocklington, owner of the Edmonton Oilers. Pocklington purchased Gretzky and two other Indianapolis players, goaltender Eddie Mio and forward Peter Driscoll, paying $700,000 for the contracts of the three players, although the announced price was actually $850,000. The Racers folded 17 games later on December 15, 1978.

The other six teams finished the season, but after the Winnipeg Jets won the Avco World Trophy, the league accepted the terms of a merger with the NHL whereby Edmonton, Winnipeg, Quebec and New England would enter the NHL as expansion teams the following season, and the WHA itself would cease operations. Cincinnati and Birmingham, the other surviving WHA teams, were paid to disband.

Mark Messier also began his career with the Racers in the 1978–79 season, playing five games and failing to register a point before being released. He was picked up by Cincinnati for the remainder of the season, before being selected by the Oilers in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft. Messier retired in 2005 as the last active player to have played in the WHA, and thus the last active player to have played for the Racers.

Season-by-season record

Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against, PIM = Penalties in minutes

Season GP W L T Pts GF GA PIM Finish Playoffs
1974–75 78 18 57 3 39 216 338 970 4th, Eastern Did not qualify
1975–76 80 35 39 6 76 245 247 1301 1st, Eastern Lost Quarter-final (New England)
1976–77 81 36 37 8 80 276 305 880 3rd, Eastern Won Quarter-final (Cincinnati)
Lost Semi-final (Quebec)
1977–78 80 24 51 5 53 267 353 1189 8th, WHA Did not qualify
1978–79 25 5 18 2 12 78 130 557 DNF Folded December 15, 1978
Totals 344 118 202 24 260 1082 1373 4897

See also



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