The Forgotten Fill-Ins
Amateur players who answered the Jets' call
The World Hockey Association provided its fans with top-calibre, major-league hockey throughout its seven-year run. As the league's dominant team, the Winnipeg Jets led the way in delivering a competitive product that rivalled anything the NHL could offer.
What is often forgotten about that era, however, is that WHA teams did not have the depth that NHL teams had. When a player went down with an injury, an NHL team could call upon a player from their farm system. WHA teams did not have that luxury. For a time, the league shared in the operation of the Jacksonville Barons of the AHL and each team contributed a couple of spare players, but, for the most part, what WHA fans saw on the ice was all the respective clubs had under contract.
As a result, the Jets were often forced to call upon amateur players from a local senior league to fill in when a player went down.
Terry Ross, a 23-year-old student at the University of Manitoba who had played in Austria in 1973-1974 and once attended training camp with the NHL's Atlanta Flames, answered the call on January 9, 1975 when goaltender Joe Daley couldn't go on account of a bad back. Ross, who was currently playing for the St. Boniface Mohawks of the Central Amateur Senior Hockey League (CASHL), suited up as the backup to Curt Larsson that night and was on the bench again three nights later as Daley's backup when Larsson's bad knee flared up.
Daley was suspended for Game 3 of the Jets' first-round playoff series against the Edmonton Oilers in 1976, so the Jets called on 22-year-old Andy Stoesz to back up Curt Larsson in Edmonton. A tenth-round draft choice of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1975, Stoesz was playing with the Steinbach Huskies of the CASHL when he got the call and watched as Larsson backstopped the Jets to a 3-2 victory.
Down to 14 healthy skaters in January 1977 due to an unprecedented rash of injuries, the Jets called on 30-year-old Morris Mott and 25-year-old Jim Cole and signed both to ten-game tryout contracts. Mott had spent three seasons in the NHL with the California Golden Seals and had played the previous season in Sweden, but Cole had no such professional experience to draw upon. Cole was working as an aircraft mechanic with the Government of Manitoba when he got the call from Jets' General Manager Rudy Pilous. Both players were currently playing in the CASHL and were rushed to San Diego, where they played against the Mariners.
Mott and Cole each played two games and both had an assist to their credit. Mott also picked up a black eye in a fight with Ray Adduono of the Mariners.
In November 1978, Joe Daley fell ill and again in need of a goaltender, the Jets plucked 24-year-old Harvey Stewart from the East Kildonan-Elmwood Millionaires of the CASHL. Stewart was a seventh-round draft choice of the NHL's Los Angeles Kings who had two minor pro seasons under his belt and joined the Jets in Quebec, where he served as Markus Mattsson's backup. Upon returning from the road trip, Stewart returned to his job at Weldwood of Canada, a wholesale plywood distributor.
Not all of the Jets during their WHA years were as celebrated as Bobby Hull and these amateurs quietly filled in to keep the Jets' ship afloat in their time of need.