15 Years Gone: Remembering the Hartford Whalers
Isn’t it amazing how some teams just universally inspire good thoughts? In the modern NHL, I would argue there aren’t many. Teams like Boston, Vancouver, Toronto create vitriol from those who don’t count themselves among their supporters. Neutrality is more common — I’d be hard pressed to find someone who despises the Blue Jackets, Predators or Lightning. But there’s nobody that we can all agree on as a team we wouldn’t mind winning.
The Hartford Whalers may have very well been the last of their kind.
Find someone who hates the Hartford Whalers and I’ll show you a sad little person, though I’m sure that will illicit many Bruins fan jokes. They — the Whalers — hit all the hallmarks of an inspirational franchise. A small market team with a phenomenal logo, unique color scheme and just enough talent to keep people interested.
Throw in Pucky the Whale and the Brass Bonanza and we’re barely keeping our heads high enough to avoid drowning in how legendary a franchise this was.
It was an anniversary largely overshadowed by the return of hockey to Winnipeg this year but the 2011-12 season marked 15 years since the departure of the Hartford Whalers from their Connecticut home. After many obstacles dropped in their midst by the NHL and NHLPA, a relocation — or farce, whatever you want to call it — to Carolina came about.
The Whalers franchise eventually came to own a Stanley Cup, but it is their mutant bastard of a cousin which put the name on the mug. (For the record, I have nothing against the ‘Canes, I just really prefer the Whalers)
To say the Whalers experienced a slow, painful death is an understatement. Five consecutive years of missed post-seasons, Pierre McGuire moonlighted as a head coach, big names came and went. The ones that stayed didn’t reach their peak until well after the team departed.
It is the saddest story hockey has ever come to know.
Let’s let the good times roll in our memories though. Those jerseys, in their raw, unapologetic glory. That logo in its simple beauty. The names which brought pride to the franchise: Howe(s), Francis, Dineen, Stoughton, Verbeek will all go down as their greatest.
The legacy may be transplanted in Carolina but the donor is well worth the celebration.
These videos are of the last Whalers game on April 13, 1997. Watching this without a lump in your throat means you distinctly lack compassion and possibly a soul.
The Jets are back, the Nordiques are getting there.
Ressurect the Whale. The 15 year slumber has been too much to bear.