The Houston Summit
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TThe Houston Aeros, playing in the World Hockey Association from 1972 to 1978, were one of the most successful teams in the league. They won the AVCO Cup in 1974 and 1975, narrowly missing a third in 1976. Until the Rockets championships in 1994 and 1995, they were Houston's only championship. The team was supposed to be located in Dayton, Ohio, but, when a planned arena fell through, the team was moved by owner Paul Deneau to Houston, where the Aeros took up residence at the Sam Houston Coliseum. Bill Dineen was named coach, and would remain behind the bench for the Aeros entire WHA run. The Aeros first season brought it a respectable second place finish in the Western Division, where it defeated Los Angeles in the playoffs before losing to Winnipeg. Over the summer of 1973, the Aeros pulled off a major coup in leading the WHA to respectability when they signed Gordie Howe, formerly of the Detroit Red Wings. As his sons, Mark and Marty were already on the Aeros roster, he jumped at the chance. All bets that he was too old to play were cancelled when he helped lead the Aeros to the AVCO Cup championship over the Chicago Cougars in four straight. For his efforts, Gordie Howe was named the league MVP. In 1974-75, Houston repeated as Western Division as well as AVCO Cup Champion. The only major change on the roster was goalie Ron Grahame replacing Don MacLeod. An injury free season also helped the Aeros beat Quebec in four straight for the Cup.
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1975-76 brought the Aeros a new home, the Summit. Another Divisional title resulted. However, a high-flying Winnipeg club proved too much for the Aeros in the AVCO Cup finals, as Houston lost in four straight. 1976-77 brought Houston its fourth straight Western Division crown. Obviously, a revamped lineup helped this, as many new players, including Terry Ruskowski and Rich Preston, helped out. Unfortunately, Winnipeg defeated the Aeros in the playoff semifinals.
The summer of 1977 brought major changes, as the Howe boys headed to the New England Whalers. The Aeros signed Andre Lacroix from the recently defunct San Diego Mariners to help pick up the slack.
The 1977-78 Aeros slipped to third overall in the rapidly shrinking WHA, falling to Quebec in the first round. The Aeros began to fall apart in the 1977-78 season, after the 1977 merger plans with the NHL fell through. Owner Kenneth Schnitzer campaigned to the NHL that either his Aeros would be admitted as an expansion team independent of a merger, or an existing club would relocate to Houston. Unfortunately, neither happened, and the Aeros closed up shop on July 6, 1978. Had the Aeros survived one more season, they probably have been admitted to the NHL in 1979. However, the Aeros were reborn in 1994 as a member of the International Hockey League.
Information on this page is from The Complete Historical and Statistical Reference to the World Hockey Associaltion 1972-1979; by Scott Adam Surgent.