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.

Comments (19)

  1. The Whalers were a bad team, but the management SUCKED! Here comes this W.H.A.
    team, and I can’t hear the Bruins games on the radio. Most of the season tickets were
    held by the insurance companies in Hartford. The people that went to the games, didn’t
    go to the game to see the game, they went to the game to be seen AT the game. The best part of that was, they would stay in the seats, at the end of the third period, and wait for the forth period to start. Management traded the beat player, (Ron Francis) and got nothing for him. The owner of the team,(Karmonis) demanded the state of Connecticut build him a new arena. Good bye trailers. If hockey ever comes back to Hartford we can only hope that the management knows what they are doing.

    • So how many games did you attend? Just curious because my experience was quite different when it comes to the kind of people who came out to watch the Whalers. Sure there were clueless insuranace people at the games but to stereotype the whole crowd that way is just way off base.

    • To Roberts…

      You’re a jackass. You have no clue what you’re talking about.

  2. I too miss the Whalers……and the Nordiques. Still a travesty that COlorado inherited a ready-made Cup contender. Just not right.

    • In fairness, there is no way the Nords would have dominated the late-90s/early-00s like the Avs did. One part of their success came directly from not being in Quebec: Patrick Roy would never have been traded inside the province.

      I think it’s disingenuous to say they inherited a “ready-made Cup contender”, when the final step was made there.

  3. I grew up a Whaler fan in the Boston ‘burbs. I endured some crap for that. My other favorite team was the North Stars, because they used a similar color scheme.

    I went away to college near Cleveland and became a big NFL Browns fan. I sat in the Dawg Pound for the last “real” Browns game.

    As an adult, I’m in Atlanta. As bad as they sucked, Thrashers hockey was a passion I really enjoyed sharing with my kids.

    I may be cursed.

    • Gotta agree here.. Sounds like a bona-fide curse.

      Do me a favor while in Atlanta and start telling rooting for the Braves… Or was that your handy work already in action last season?

  4. And no mention of franchise cornerstones Brendan Shanahan or Paul Coffey?

    • I didn’t want to look like someone who just Googled “famous players in Hartford history”

    • Coffey acted like a petulant little child with a soiled diaper during his very brief stay in Hartford and was nowhere close to being a franchise cornerstone. Shanahan was a little bitch too but at least he produced.

  5. those dark blue Whalers jerseys are still, IMO, one of the best jerseys ever stitched

  6. Move the Panthers to Hartford.

  7. Great post. Those videos are heartbreaking. I wasn’t a Whalers fan, but like you say they were always a very likeable team. I get a little bleary-eyed hearing Brass Bonanza because I feel brutal for the fans that saw their team depart.

  8. I had the great honor of growing up in Binghamton NY and frequented the B-Whalers games. Had the awesome opportunity to see big names pass through my little city on their way to Hartford and elsewhere: Ulfie, Sid, Marty Howe, Brad Shaw, Pleau and Ley as coaches, and many others. I even endured the painful last season in which they set AHL records for futility. (11-60-9.) Ironically, they beat the Springfield Indians in their last game, then moved to Springfield the next season and won a Calder Cup. So I’m always connected to the Hartford community, even though I wasn’t there. The power play by then-commish Zeigler and Karamos was pathetic and childish, and I hope CT can get an NHL team again– this time with decent management.

  9. Those videos were pretty difficult to watch. I was at the game over 15 years ago, and until now I had never seen the broadcast of the last moments of the game and after. The emotions of that day came flooding back, and I can’t put it all into words. It still hurts after all this time, and the buring desire to have the NHL back–to have the Hartford Whalers back where they belong–is stronger than ever.

    I’m happy Winnipeg has the Jets back, and I’m thrilled Quebec will soon have the Nordiques back. I just have to believe that someday, somehow, the Whalers will skate in Hartford once again.

  10. Flyers fan from Philly, and besides the home team, I loved the Flames and Whalers growing up in the 80′s and 90′s. I couldn’t stand Montreal since the always beat Hartford, and the Flames beating Montreal in ’89 for the cup was one of my happiest sports memories as a kid.

  11. I was a kid growing up just outside of Hartford and was lucky enough to have season tickets since my Mom worked for one of those insurance companies “Roberts” mentioned. Believe it or not Roberts, insurance people are hockey fans too (like me), and many of those companies helped employees purchase season tickets at discounted rates, so the insurance companies actually helped build the appetite and accessibility in Hartford!

    I went to games from 1979 when I was 11 years old all the way through the last game in 1997 including Games 4 and 6 in the ’86 Adams Division Finals and even traveled from Philly to Montreal for their final playoff game as The Whalers in 1992. As much as I’d like to see a Whalers team return to Hartford the reality is that Hartford is still geographically challenged being between the Boston & New York markets. Add in the NY Islanders and it becomes even more difficult to compete for advertising, radio, sponsorship, TV, etc. revenue in those larger markets. Given the current state of the economy and in particular, in the Hartford area I question whether from a pure economic perspective could a competitive team survive … and thrive in Hartford? Thoughts?

    Either way, I’m still buying and wearing Whalers gear for myself and my kids whenever I get the chance!

  12. For what it’s worth to anyone… I have a habit of buying a relaxed fitted hat with a nice, clean old school logo.. Then I wear it until it literally falls off my head…

    I have also long been a fan of the Whalers logo, despite knowing very little about the team (got into Hockey maybe 2 years before the moved.. I have vauge memories of seeing Andrew Cassells, maybe?)..

    Anyway, when my early-70′s White Sox hat bit the bullet, I jumped all over an all blue Whaler lid… Now, I live in Queens, NY which, as you might suspect, is not exactly a hockey hotbed… But not a week goes by that someone doesn’t compliment me on the hat… Sure it’s mostly older fat guys, but it is a testament to how fondly The Whale is still looked upon.

    For reference, my other hats where an early 80′s Brewers, and a 70′s Orioles.

  13. Sure, there are other markets waiting for teams. Seattle, Quebec, Hamilton come to mind. Hopefully Hartford and Milwaukee can get NHL/NBA arenas to start competing for a new team/keeping them (Bucks).

    If only there was donation drive to fund a new arena. It might take years of fundraising, but it would be better than forcing tax payers to pay up for a team they might not have interest in.

    I’m sure people would be willing to donate, especially if they are hockey/Whaler fans.

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