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The Rebel League: The Short and Unruly Life of the World Hockey Association

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  455 ratings  ·  51 reviews
The wildest seven years in the history of hockey

The Rebel League celebrates the good, the bad, and the ugly of the fabled WHA. It is filled with hilarious anecdotes, behind the scenes dealing, and simply great hockey. It tells the story of Bobby Hull’s astonishing million-dollar signing, which helped launch the league, and how he lost his toupee in an on-ice scrap.It expla
Paperback, 288 pages
Published October 4th 2005 by McClelland & Stewart (first published September 14th 2004)
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Average rating 4.10  · 
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 ·  455 ratings  ·  51 reviews

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Oct 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: hockey fans, sports fans and fans of sports history
6/10/16: Like Bobby Hull, Gordie Howe was one of those larger-than-life players that put the WHA on the map. He came to play next to his sons. And it was there his legend grew far greater.

This book tells all those stories and more in beautiful detail.

He was one of the greatest hockey players to ever play this game. RIP Mr. Hockey.

Book Review:
As far as writing goes for a historical event within hockey, I thought this book was first rate in how engaging and witty it was in re-telling the rise, an
Alex Stroshine
Feb 02, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
As a big hockey fan, I've long been intrigued by the World Hockey Association; I don't follow other sports and the WHA seemed to be an impressive major league rival to the National Hockey League. I also marvel that my hometown (Vancouver) in the mid-1970s boasted BOTH the Vancouver Canucks AND the Vancouver Blazers (sadly, one of the personal letdowns of this book is that Ed Willes spends only a few pages covering the Blazers; learning more about Vancouver's WHA team was one of the impetuses I h ...more
Dave Cottenie
Dec 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An amazing ride through a crazy league. From non-descript, blah origins to the crazy connections with the movie Slap Shot, The Rebel League is one of the best hockey books written. The influence of the World Hockey Association on the modern game should not be taken lightly. Ed Willes has provided us a hockey masterpiece.
May 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
As the NHL tries to revive interest following a lock out and lacking a contract with a significant television network, this isn't the first time there was an effort to shake up the world of professional hockey. Taking cues from the American Football League and the American Basketball Association, the World Hockey Association was born. The Rebel League , by Ed Willes, makes a worthy but not always successful effort to document the history of the WHA.[return][return]Although in existence only f ...more
May 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
The Rebel League surprised me a bit. I was concerned it would be more of a "surface" story. Not really getting into details of the 7-year venture that was the WHA. It turned out to be a very well-written, detailed story.

Sure, there are the must-haves like Gordie Howe and his kids, Bobby Hull, Wayne Gretzky, the Slap Shot inspiration, the goonery. But this had more.

Details, details, details. Lots of interviews - and from a very diverse bunch. That was a big part of the enjoyment. Recognizing name
Oct 19, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I was born in Edmonton at the tail end of the 1970s, so I always had a general awareness of the World Hockey Association, but I didn't really know much about it beyond a bunch of the teams ended up in the NHL, and that Gordie Howe played on the same team with his kids at one point. This book was clearly an education, then.

The WHA story is an interesting one - it was started by people who seemed to not know much about hockey or business, and kept itself together with little more than duct tape a
Jun 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Hilarious. A decent history of the rise and fall, and the WHA's legacy, but mostly a collection of great anecdotes involving some pretty wacky characters. Willes tries a bit too hard to be the deadpan raconteur at times, but the tales themselves are amusing. A fun read, especially if you're a hockey fan. ...more
Sean Eddy
Jan 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is the best hockey book you've never heard of. The book chronicles the good, the bad, and the ugly of the WHA, and there was plenty of bad and ugly to go around. The stories that filtered out of the wild and crazy backwoods league went on to inspire just about everything in SlapShot. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction and this holds true here.

Jan 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Most enjoyable hockey book I have ever read--and I've read quite a few of them. Does for the World Hockey Association what Terry Pluto's LOOSE BALL did for the American Basketball Association. And once more, that is saying a lot.

If you love hockey, or if you love the business of sports, if you remember the 70s--heck, if you ever rented "Slapshot," you should read this book.
Jul 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
funny, well-researched and interviewed and attributed, and just everything is so good about this book. The names and such got a bit jumbled up in my head so I had to keep going back and reminding myself of who was who, but other than that... this is such an entertaining, enlightening read.
Raimo Wirkkala
Feb 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book exceeded my expectations by a great deal! Sports books, all too often, disappoint but this book is welcome exception. Willes has a great sense of humour and his approach in telling the story through the people involved makes for a wonderful, nostalgic experience.
May 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
A great history of the World Hockey Association, warts and all. But the league forced the NHL into modern age, and should be fondly remembered for that. A non hockey fan would enjoy this book, as well as true hockey fans.
Jan 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Entertaining and well-written stories about the rebels who changed hockey. At times, I chuckled out loud.
Brandon Gee
Jan 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Really enjoyed the stories of hockey in the 70s, definitely a bygone era. For as many flaws as the WHA had, they changed the sport forever.
May 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: hockey-books
fascinating insight into the world of hockey in the 70's, and written in a way that's delightfully entertaining ...more
Kathy Johnson
Jul 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book grew up with the WHA Jets, a lot of the stuff I knew, some I didn't. A must read especially for WHA fans & all hockey fans who didn't get to see them play. ...more
A funny and engaging read about the World Hockey Association from it's formation to it's eventual merging with the NHL. ...more
Jan 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, sports
The 70s were an interesting decade for sports. You had a number of upstart leagues out there, challenging the existing status quo, fighting for more pieces of the pie that was and would continue to be an huge part of our culture. The AFL, the ABA, and the WHA were all upstart leagues, flying by the seat of their pants, and eventually merged with their bigger competitors, but all made their sports better.

Perhaps you've seen Slapshot, that hockey movie about that blue collar, lunchpail hockey team
Jun 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
In the 1960s and 70s, a number of professional sports leagues sprang up to challenge the long-established leagues in a number of sports. The American Football League, and American Basketball Association and the World Hockey Association all ended up eventually merging with their rival leagues. This book covers the seven year history of the WHA. It is a riveting tale of behind the scenes machinations, dazzling on-ice skill, and violent on-ice goonery, all of which were hallmarks of the short life ...more
Dec 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: hockey
I liked the book and it is informative, but Marek had me hyped about it so much it couldn't reach my expectations.
Plently of weird stories to check out, so if you are a bonafide hockey nerd it's a must. However, as someone who didn't grow up around hockey culture and only came to it after the last lockout, it is not easy to forge an emotional connection to the story told. Especially not-so-big stars that are brought in the lime light are people I hear about for the first time where I take n the
Jim Donovan
Oct 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Hard to believe some of the things in this book actually happened. Comical and sad at the same time what some of those guys went through. Amazing that it was considered a professional league at all when you learn about some of the behind the scenes shenannigans that actually took place. I enjoyed it tremendously. I still have a bunch of WHA trading cards and old wax wrappers that they came in back in the day.
May 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: hockey
Most people forget there was a rival professional hockey league for seven years in the 70s - the WHA.

Each chapter is essentially a mini-biography about the different players and teams, from Gordon Howe, Bobby Hull, and Wayne Gretzky, not to mention the other wacky and wild characters from the league. The WHA was essentially the Wild West, no limits version of the NHL. I loved every page of these unbelievable stories and plucky underdogs.
Thomas W. Brown
May 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fun read

Enjoyed this look at the end since I knew too little about it. The characters were an eccentric and colorful group. Kudos to Bobby Hill and Gordie Howe for moving the league forward with credibility. As with all sports mergers, old school guys like Harold Ballard were stubborn conservatives who never gave in to the theory that the old way is the only way. Recommended reading for hockey fans.
Walt Murray
Sep 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a very readable book that gives us the I side scoop on the life of the World Hockey Association. It is filled with great stories and good insight on how the WHA changed Hockey forever. If you are a hockey fan it is a must read, and it will be an interesting read for any sports fan, or for anyone interested in the business of sports.
Greg Johnson
Aug 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Must read for any hockey fan.

Without the WHA the Oilers may never have won a single cup. The history of NHL is not complete without the history of the rebel league weaved into it. Must read for die hard fans of the greatest game on earth.
Jul 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyable book on the WHA. A loose history, gets into the major events in the timeline of the league, interspersed with anecdotes and stories from players. Lots of interesting facts and trivia for hockey fans.
John R. Wells Jr.
A great read!

As a fan of the WHA's Birmingham Bulls, this books subject is a trip back to my early 20s and to the many nights I spent watching WHA games in person or listening to on the radio. This book tells a great story and is a must read for all hockey fans.
Dec 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great Hockey Memories

This book was fun to read and I found it difficult to put down. It was a trip down memory lane for me as I grew up in that era and enjoyed Hockey immensely. I can remember every player mentioned in this book. Lots of interesting facts and hilarious stories!
D.F. Pendrys
Jun 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A lot of good information about a very rough league. A few troubling parts, but a good recounting of the WHA.
Chris Friesen
Sep 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Great insight into and stories about the WHA.
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Sports columnist Ed Willes was born in Ottawa in 1955. Growing up, he moved across the country living in Ottawa, Montreal, Regina, Chilliwack, Toronto, Kingston, and Victoria. He remained in Ottawa to complete his third year of journalism BA at Carleton, but, alas, never obtained his degree.

Willes' first newspaper posting was for the Medicine Hat News in 1982 when he covered the WHL Tigers, minor

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