Cincinnati had a remarkable 26-14 home-ice record in its first season but still failed to make the playoffs. In Year 2 the Stingers need help in goal, where Paul Hoganson has been overgenerous, and some experience up front, where the average age is less than 23. The Stingers' graybeard is 27-year-old Rick Dudley, the fearless left wing who always seems to be wrapped around a goalpost or eating someone's hockey stick. He is the Pete Rose of the Stingers. What they need now are a few Johnny Benches and Joe Morgans.
The well-paid Toronto Toros were the WHA's most disappointing team last season, winning just 24 games. Not surprisingly, proper Torontonians managed to find ways to avoid spending their dollars on Toro tickets. So Owner John Bassett has moved them south to BIRMINGHAM, where they have some new investors, including several of Bassett's old WFL cronies; a new arena, the 17,250-seat Civic Center Coliseum; and a new nickname, the Bulls. The new Bulls are O.K. on offense but woefully weak on defense, just like the old Toros. Vaclav Nedomansky, who probably never dreamed there was a Birmingham in his future when he defected from Czechoslovakia to Toronto in 1974, scored 56 goals last season. Frank Mahovlich scored 34 goals for the Toros, but he seems to have lost his zest for the game after 20 seasons in the big leagues. Birmingham's future, though, is 19-year-old Center Mark Napier, last season's Rookie of the Year with 43 goals. Napier is the fastest skater in the WHA, faster than even Anders Hedberg. He is so speedy, so shifty, that Bear Bryant may try to recruit him for the Bama football team.
The MINNESOTA Fighting Saints are back, but are not related to the Fighting Saints who went belly-up last midseason. The new Fighting Saints are actually the old Cleveland Crusaders, who surrendered that city to the NHL's California Seals, now the Cleveland Barons. While the name Fighting Saints still creates an image problem, particularly in the ticket-selling area, the new management has changed the uniform color from royal blue, white and gold to scarlet and gold. Victories will help the image more than scarlet uniforms, but unfortunately the Fighting Saints lost their two best players, Center Jim Harrison and Defenseman Paul Shmyr, during the move. Defenseman Tom Edur also abandoned the Saints, who, in a surprising move, traded Right Wing Gary MacGregor, a 44-and 21-goal scorer in his two WHA seasons, to Indianapolis for aging Center Dave Keon. Slick Center Ron Ward remains, however, and Minnesota has signed tough guy Gordie Gallant, who once had a dressing-room fight with former Fighting Saints Coach Harry Neale, and also onetime Fighting Saints Goaltender Mike Curran, who was the first player signed by the new WHA in 1972. This time Curran hopes his team will survive the complete season.