Saturday, May 23, 2009
It was on this date in 1979 that the New England Whalers changed their name to the Hartford Whalers. A charter member of the World Hockey Association in the 1972-73 season, the New England Whalers actually started out life in Boston, Massachusetts in the backyard of the mighty Boston Bruins, who were fresh off a Stanley Cup winning season.
The Whalers gave it their best shot and not only finished with the best record in the new WHA with a 46-30-2 record that year, but also captured the inagural Avco World Trophy by winning three rounds of the playoffs by identical 4 games to 1 totals.
The Whalers lasted 2 1/2 seasons in Boston, but sagging attendance led the owners to relocate the team to Hartford - in mid season! The Whalers were successful in Hartford, still playing as the "New England" Whalers, never missing the playoffs in it's seven years in the WHA.
Easily the most recognizable names to play for the New England Whalers in their WHA days were hockey legend Gordie Howe and his sons Mark Howe and Marty Howe.
With the "merger" of the WHA and NHL, the Whalers were one of the four teams to survive the end of the WHA, but because of lobbying by the Boston Bruins, one of the conditions of the Whalers being allowed into the NHL was the dropping of "New England" from the team's name.
Today's featured jersey is a 1991-92 Hartford Whalers Kevin Dineen jersey. Since the Whalers jerseys were never reproduced as part of the CCM Vintage Line, with a more generous cut and current fabrics, this is an original CCM replica from the late 80's/early 90's (as indicated by the small white rectangular neck tag) featuring many standard "perks" of the old replicas - ultra lightweight, relatively see-through materials, crooked cresting and incorrect customization, with the font for the numbers on the back being the one used by the Chicago Blackhawks! Life in those days for the average collector buying replicas was one of settling and compromises...
This is another jersey featuring the beautiful NHL 75th Anniversary patch from our favorite year of NHL jerseys ever.
Kevin Dineen's number 11 was retired by the Hartford Whalers, but has subsequently been put back into circulation by the Carolina Hurricanes after the team's relocation in 1997, which we personally feel is just plain wrong, but seems to be a common practice when franchises move, as was the case with Peter Stastny's #26 which was retired by the Quebec Nordiques but worn by Stephane Yelle in Colorado. Seriously, if Peter Stastny's number isn't going to stay retired, then no one is safe when your club relocates.
Brass Bonanza, also known as the "Whalers Victory March" was adopted by the Whalers as their theme song during their days in the WHA, and remained so through their years in the NHL. Gordie Howe was once quoted as saying that he loved to hear it as a visiting player for the Houston Aeros, but hearing it every night with the Whalers "began to drive me nuts."
Dasherboard: Just when you thought the Blackhawks just might be having everything going their way last night,with a 3-0 lead over Detroit, the Red Wings put their foot on the gas and tie the game in a 4 1/2 minute span of the second period. The Blackhawks however, did not fold up their tent in a critical game for their survival and held off the Wings for the remainder of regulation, allowing them just 6 shots on goal in the third after allowing them 18 in the second peroid.
Chicago's efforts were rewarded by an early goal in overtime by Patrick Sharp off a great pass by Sammy Pahlsson, giving them, and their fans, a much needed boost going into Game 4 on Sunday.
In other NHL news, Mike Keenan was fired yesterday by the Calgary Flames. Now as much as we're not fans of Keenan's, it seems like Flames failure in the playoffs this year, and down the stretch of the season, was due to injuries and very poor salary cap management by Darryl Sutter more than anything Keenan did or did not do. We suppose losing a playoff series to the San Jose Sharks last year was a pretty horrid blotch on any coach's record though.
Still, Keenan had been the Flames coach for two years now, which historically appears to be his "sell by date", as Calgary was his eighth team he has coached in the NHL, with his longest tenure being just four years. He hasn't even lasted that long since 1992 though, with two years and 15 games being his longest stay at one place in the last seventeen years with his deepest "playoff run" being but a single first round win back in 1996 with St. Louis - a team had Brett Hull, Al MacInnis, Chris Pronger and Wayne Gretzky!
What really gets us is the quote from Sutter that said "expectations were not met". The thing with Keenan is, more than perhaps any other coach in the league, you know exactly what you are going to get with Keenan. Just what expectation wasn't met? Not enough internal strife, power struggles and general turmoil? Perhaps a public feud with Jarome Iginla? Surely you didn't expect a coach with but a single playoff round victory in seventeen years to pull a Stanley Cup out of his hat, did you?