Friday, August 28, 2009

'Hartford...? The Whale...? They only beat Vancouver once, maybe twice in a lifetime.'

The following is written by David Kamoe, a life-long sports fan whose sister is a close friend. David is an avid A's fan, wen to to high school with Drew Gooden and can't believe that Giants commentator Mike Krukow used to refer to the right-centerfield expanse at Pac Bell Park as "Finley Alley," referring to Steve Finley who remarkably wore a Giants uniform for a season. David will likely be stopping by these parts a few times a month, so treat him right. And no sister jokes.

I am a fan of every Kevin Smith movie except Jersey Girl. To be fair though, Kevin Smith isn’t a fan of Jersey Girl and he directed it. One of Kevin Smith’s fine films is Mallrats, the first acting turn of My Name is Earl’s Jason Lee. During the movie, Jason Lee utters the following line: “Breakfast’s come and go Rene. Now Hartford? The Whale? Hey, they only beat Vancouver once maybe twice in a lifetime.”

The Whale to which Jason Lee refers is not Shamu nor Moby Dick but the Hartford Whalers Hockey Club. Added into the NHL from the WHL in 1979, the Whalers were the lone professional sports franchise in the state of Connecticut. For 18 years, they existed mainly as a franchise with a cool logo and their own theme song. Then came the year 1997 and the Whalers were taken away from Hartford. I do not remember this well as a young sports fan in California. I generally focused on football and baseball with a casual interest in basketball.

Seeing Mallrats introduced me to “The Whale” and in turn that Gordie Howe finished his illustrious career wearing a Whalers sweater. I also learned that the Hartford Whalers had become the Carolina Hurricanes. This annoys me as sports purist because I think of hockey as a sport played primarily in the 13 Canadian provinces and the upper Midwestern and New England United States. Proof of this can be found in the NCAA hockey teams routinely in the “Frozen Four.” Find me a UCLA, a “U-Dub” on that list and I’ll be very surprised.

This is a part of the larger question of the NHL being in far too many “Sunshine States” and the “Make it seven” campaign headed by Jim Balsillie from Research in Motion Ltd. I support M. Balsillie’s efforts and frankly think there should be eight teams in Canada again.

Then again, the city of Hartford threw a parade when “The Whale” made the playoffs one year. Made the playoffs! Toronto wouldn’t have people marching down Yonge Street and they haven’t won the Cup since 1967!

On the flipside, there was a recent New York Times article about fans in Hartford who still go out to the Hartford Civic Center wearing Whalers sweaters to see the local minor league team. Furthermore, a quick viewing of a University of Connecticut men’s basketball game will reveal Whalers banners still hanging from the rafters.

Put on the old 45 of “Brass Bonanza” Whalers fan. Maybe one day Gary Bettman will retire and someone smarter will bring back “The Whale.” Then Rene and Brodie can go to breakfast.


John said...

i grew up in connecticut and we all had a warm spot in our hearts for the whale. unfortunately, they were like the lions of the nhl, and attendance waned over time simply because the team was so consistently bad.

i really started following hockey the last year they were in town during the 'save the whale' campaign (I was 14). watched all the games on tv and had updated nhl 95 to reflect the current roster. peter karmanos really stabbed us through the heart. attendance skyrocketed to 'save the whale', but it wasn't enough.

ironically i now live in raleigh, and i have to admit people have really taken to hockey here. it's just unfortunate what became of the whalers.

side note: i have a set of whalers pogs somewhere. yes, whalers pogs.

Anonymous said...

POG's for "the Whale?" Nice.

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