The Western Hockey League was a minor professional ice hockey league that operated from 1952 to 1974. Managed for most of its history by Al Leader, it was created out of the merger of the Pacific Coast Hockey League and the Western Canada Senior Hockey League. During the 1960s, the WHL moved into a number of large west coast markets including Los Angeles and San Francisco. There was speculation that Western Hockey League could grow into a major league capable of rivaling even the long-entrenched National Hockey League.
In the 1965–66 and 1967–68 seasons, the WHL played an interlocking schedule with the American Hockey League. Fears that the WHL (or a WHL/AHL merger) could become a rival major league was among the factors that finally convinced the National Hockey League to expand for the 1967–68 season.
Several factors led to the WHL's decision to cease operations after the 1973–74 season. The NHL and World Hockey Association had moved into many of its traditional markets, and the talent pool had become strained by the fast growth in the number of professional teams. When the NHL announced in June 1974 that the owners of both the Denver Spurs and Seattle Totems had been granted "conditional" NHL franchises (neither of which came to fruition), the WHL announced the same day that it was folding. A few of its surviving teams were absorbed into the Central Hockey League; At least one surviving team, the Phoenix Roadrunners, would join the WHA for the 1974–75 season, and the Denver Spurs would also eventually move to the WHA for the 1975–76 season, following one season in the CHL.