The 1977-78 season was the penultimate of the World Hockey Association. The Birmingham Bulls may have been trying to take a page out of the Philadelphia Flyers book from a few years earlier. However, the bullying and harassment from Birmingham did not earn them a championship.
The Bulls were led by Ken ‘The Rat’ Linseman, who scored 38 and assisted in 38 more for 76 points in 71 games. Birmingham was led by veteran players Paul Henderson and Frank Mahovlich, but the team finished sixth of eight teams with 75 points on the 80-game schedule. The Bulls then lost in the first round of the Avco Cup playoffs to the eventual champion Winnipeg Jets. The team was trained by Glen Sonmor. Sonmor would lead the Minnesota North Stars to the Stanley Cup final just two years later.
The top four players with the most penalty minutes in the WHA in 1977-78 were all members of the Birmingham Bulls.
Steve Durbano – 284 PIM in 45 games
Steve ‘Demolition Durby’ Durbano played his only 45 WHA games for the Bulls in 1977-78. He also contributed offensively with six goals and four assists for ten points. Durbano played youth hockey for the OHA with the Toronto Marlboros from 1968-69 to 1970-71.
Steve was a first-round pick for the New York Rangers in 1971, placing 13th in the NHL Amateur Draft. He played 220 games in the NHL between 1972-73 and 1978-79 with the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Kansas City Scouts, and Colorado Rockies.
Frank Beaton – 279 PIM in 56 games
Frank ‘Seldom’ Beaton was an undrafted player who appeared in 153 WHA games with the Cincinnati Stingers, Edmonton Oilers and Birmingham Bulls. Along with his 279 PIM, he also scored six and added 15 points. Beaton appeared in 25 National Hockey League games, all with the New York Rangers.
Gilles Bilodeau – 258 PIM in 59 games
‘Bad news’ Bilodeau provided very little offense for the Bulls with just two goals and two assists in 1977-78. He was drafted into the WHA by the Toronto Bulls in 1975, selected 121st in the ninth round.
Gilles Bilodeau played in 143 WHA games with the Bulls and Quebec Nordiques. He played in nine NHL games with the Nordiques when they joined the league for the 1979-80 season. In 1975-76, with Beauce Jaros of the North American Hockey League, Bilodeau posted a league record of 451 PIMs in just 58 games.
Dave Hanson – 241 PIM in 42 games
The only ‘Brother Hanson’ from the movie ‘Slap Shot’ who was actually a Hanson. Dave played Jack Hanson in the 1977 cult film. Despite his high total penalty minutes in so few games, Hanson contributed the most among the four on offense with seven goals and 16 assists for 23 points.