This great photo showed up on my twitter timeline recently courtesy of the great @Super70sSports.
No info was given other than what is obvious to the viewer, Gordie Howe and his Houston Aeros are playing the Edmonton Oilers in WHA action. Most good vinatge hockey fans will know that #3 and captain of the Oilers is Al Hamilton, but what year was this photo from?
Two simple pieces of information narrow down the year. Gordie Howe returned to hockey with the Aeros for the 1973/74 season and the Oilers logo switched from blue to orange lettering in 1974/75 (thanks to whauniforms.com). Now we can confirm that Oilers goalie in the pic is Chris Worthy who shared duties mainly with Jack Norris in 73/74. Worthy went 11-12-1 with a 3.80 GAA. Hamilton ended up a Second Team All-Star this season with 14 goals and 59 points. Howe of course returned with a bang this season scoring 100 points. He was named First Team All-Star and won the WHA's MVP.
Determining the exact date for the game is tougher as the Oilers visited Houston on four occaisons in 73/74 with the Aeros winning three of the four. The player in the distant left of the photo is slightly more difficult to identify. We can say for sure he is wearing a moustache and a helmet. Also his fuzzy number is definitely 1 "1" and what looks like a "3". Problem is, Edmonton didn't have a number 13 this season. It's fairly obvious that the second number definitely has an open top-left to it, so it has to be either 12 or 17.
Rusty Patenaude wore 17 that year, but he was a right-handed shooter, so he's out. Number 12 was Brian McKenzie and he did shoot left. Two photos of him are below. Yep, McKenzie had a moustache. I can't find photos of him wearing a helmet, but I think it's safe to say that's him in the background of this great photo.