Since the day in 1997 that the Hartford Whalers left Connecticut and became the Carolina Hurricanes, a diehard group of hockey fans never let the flicker of hope for a return be extinguished.
Their champion was Howard Baldwin, a former owner of the Whalers who time and again made headlines with plans to lure the NHL back to Hartford.
It's still not back, but hockey fans in Hartford have the next-best thing. Their AHL team, the Wolf Pack, is being re-named the Connecticut Whale and will be managed by Baldwin's Hartford Hockey LLC.
The NHL's Whalers were commonly called "The Whale." To this day, Whalers jerseys can be spotted at NHL rinks on any given day, and hockey purists smile knowingly whenever strains of "Brass Bonanza," the catchy Whalers theme song, can be heard.
Al Victor, president of the Whalers Booster Club, told The Hartford Courant, "I was kind of put back because I always felt the Whalers name should be saved for the NHL. I like the idea of not going with the Whalers and saving it for the NHL. And they are paying tribute to the Whale with this name. This is a good compromise … we always called them the Whale."
Baldwin is planning an outdoor winter hockey festival in February at East Hartford's Rentschler Field, home of the UConn football team, modeled after the NHL's Winter Classic.
The Connecticut Whale will remain an affiliate of the New York Rangers.
The main contributors to The Buzz are:
- Matt Pepin, Boston.com sports editor
- Steve Silva, Boston.com senior sports producer
- Gary Dzen, Boston.com senior sports producer
- Zuri Berry, Boston.com sports producer