Hartford Whalers fan fest brings back memories, raises questions


ronfrancishfd-getty-bennett.jpgThere was a heaping dose of hockey nostalgia this weekend surrounding a team that hasn’t been in the NHL since 1997. For the fans of what once were the Hartford Whalers this weekend provided a time to come together to celebrate not just the past glory of the Whalers but also to praise one of their own for winning the Stanley Cup this year. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is a former Whalers defenseman.

It also provided the opportunity for the fans in Hartford to show that they want the NHL to make a miraculous return to the city and resurrect the Whale as Jeff Jacobs of The Hartford Courant shares.

“It’s a first step and as a first step, my God, I can’t get over how great it was,” Howard Baldwin said. “The joy in people’s faces, the joy of being involved in something like this, it was a chance for people to express themselves. And that expression just grew and grew.”

Baldwin had said he would consider 1,500 a good showing. Privately, he hoped for upward of 3,000. He got 4,700. This wasn’t a final election, but it was a primary, an early referendum on whether folks believed Baldwin ought to keep pushing to rebuild the hockey marketplace, to keep alive the dream to one day bring the NHL back.

Consider the message sent.

Even if 15,000 had shown up nobody was going to drive up to the Rent and hand-deliver an NHL franchise to Connecticut. That’s a long way off. So many obstacles remain. Yet if 200 folks showed, you may as well have counted out Hartford on the spot.

“You know me better than to think I would have quit,” Baldwin insisted, “but I would have gone home and sulked.”

Instead, Baldwin has to feel empowered to keep building, to keep moving ahead. The NHL has to wake up this morning and, at the very least, say, “This is no joke.”

If you’re not familiar with who Howard Baldwin is, he’s the former owner of the Hartford Whalers and his love of the franchise has not waned. Holding a convention for fans that managed to break out former Whalers stars like Ron Francis, Kevin Dineen, Larry Pleau and Dana Murzyn shows that you mean business when paying respects to the team and to the fans. Whether it means you’re serious about trying to get the NHL back to Connecticut is another question entirely.

The nostalgia for the Whalers is palpable amongst fans everywhere. The logo is iconic, their hapless ways made them endearing and the only fans that ever seemed to hate the Whalers are Bruins fans. Take that for what you think it’s worth. Waxing poetic for the days of Pat Verbeek, Mike Liut, Ray Ferraro and Sylvain Turgeon makes it seem like the Whalers were a big time team. Even getting name-dropped in Kevin Smith’s movie “Mallrats” helps pile on the reflective love for the Whale. Make no mistake about it, I love the Whalers, their history and everything about them… But Hartford doesn’t deserve

Fact of the matter is, the Whalers were a mediocre team and the fans in Hartford had a hard time packing the place out game in and game out. We’d all love to see the Whalers come back somehow, someway but unless that somehow magically transforms Hartford back into a city worth having an NHL team, Hartford is going to have to be content with being one of the larger AHL markets.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Rangers storm back, crush Bruins

Leave a comment

For the first half of Wednesday’s game in New York, everything was going pretty great for the Boston Bruins.

They not only had a two-goal lead, but rookie goalie Zane McIntyre was playing extremely well in his first NHL start as he filled in for injured veterans Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin.

And then everything kind of fell apart for him and the Bruins defense.

The Rangers stormed back for five consecutive goals on their way to a 5-2 win, handing the Bruins their fourth loss in seven games to start the season, and their second lopsided loss in a row.

This game was always going to be a struggle for Boston given the injury situation both in goal and up front (David Backes was also sidelined for this game) and the fact it was their second game in as many days.

But even though he gave up five goals on 29 shots, including one on a Kevin Hayes bank-shot from below the goal line, it is tough to put too much of this on the rookie McIntyre.

This loss was a total team effort.

The Bruins got into penalty trouble in the second period and the defense in front of their rookie was simply not good enough, something that is going to continue to be an issue for the rest of the season until the front office addresses the personnel.

That defense turned out to be a brutal matchup against a Rangers team that has some great forward depth and the floodgates finally started to open for them in the second half of the game.

Rick Nash opened the scoring for New York with a power play goal midway through the second period, and then added an assist later in the game to help put it out of reach when he set up rookie forward Jimmy Vesey for his fourth goal of the season.

Brandon Pirri, one of the many bargain free agent additions the Rangers made to their forward group over the summer, also added a pair of goals including the game-winner in the second period to break the 2-2 tie.

The Bruins have now lost three games in a row and have been outscored by a 15-4 margin.

Ducks’ Ryan Getzlaf out with upper body injury

DENVER, CO - APRIL 09:  Ryan Getzlaf #15 of the Anaheim Ducks awaits a face off against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on April 9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. the Ducks defeated the Avalanche 5-3. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
1 Comment

Anaheim Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf was banged up in his team’s overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night and it is bad enough to keep him out of the lineup entirely on Wednesday when they host the Nashville Predators.

The Ducks announced the news just before puck drop on Wednesday.

Getzlaf played only 10 minutes on Tuesday night before exiting the game.

The Ducks are also playing without goaltender Jonathan Bernier who was also injured on Tuesday, resulting in the team calling up Dustin Tokarski for Wednesday’s game. Tokarski will serve as the backup for John Gibson.

Getzlaf is definitely the bigger loss here for the Ducks on Wednesday, not only because Gibson was likely to start this game anyway, but because Getzlaf is one of their absolute best players.

Still one of the NHL’s top playmakers, Getzlaf has eight points (one goal, seven assists) in the Ducks’ first seven games. That includes a three assist game against the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday.


Video: Pastrnak penalized for illegal check to head

1 Comment

Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak has had a busy night on Wednesday.

After opening the scoring just 10 seconds into their game against the New York Rangers, he might have brought some unwanted attention upon himself when he was given a two-minute minor penalty for an illegal check to the head of Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi in the second period.

It all happened as Girardi was attempting to knock a puck down out of mid-air when Pastrnak came in with a crushing high hit. Girardi was shaken up as a result of the hit and briefly exited the game before later returning after missing a couple of shifts.

The Bruins ended up successfully killing the two minute penalty to Pastrnak, but quickly gave up a pair of goals later in the period to allow the Rangers to take a 3-2 lead.

The next question now is whether or not the NHL’s department of player safety steps in and issues any additional discipline. Any further discipline would seem like a real long-shot at this point.

Pastrnak still had a skate on the ice at the time of contact with Girardi, and while there was contact with Girardi’s head there was also contact with his chest as well. Girardi also returned to the game, and whether or not there is an injury does play a role into the decision.

Canadiens win again thanks to another thunderous Shea Weber goal

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 26: Shea Weber #6 of the Montreal Canadiens celebrates this game winning powerplay goal at 17:03 of the third period against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on October 26, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  The Canadiens defeated the Islanders 3-2.(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

For the second year in a row the Montreal Canadiens are storming out of the gate to open the season.

Thanks to their 3-2 win over the New York Islanders on Wednesday night the Canadiens are off to a 6-0-1 start and have the best record in the league through their first seven games.

Even though Wednesday’s game was only decided by a single goal, it was a particularly strong effort and perhaps one of their best of the young season. The biggest reason the game remained so close for so long was because of the play of Thomas Greiss in the Islanders crease during the second and third periods where Montreal had a commanding edge on the shot chart. This game could have easily shifted heavily in Montreal’s favor, and the fact it did not is a testament to the way Griess played.

But the star of the night was — once again — Canadiens defenseman Shea Weber as he continued his incredible start with his new team.

With less than three minutes to play in regulation, Weber broke a 2-2 tie with his third goal of the season on a shot that seems like it was probably close to breaking the sound barrier.

OK … maybe that is a slight exaggeration, but just look at this thing.

How do you stop that? Why would you want to get in front of it?

Weber also assisted on Philip Danault‘s goal earlier in the period. He now has nine points in his first seven games with the Canadiens.

As we saw a year ago with the Canadiens won their first nine games (and then missed the playoffs) a fast start doesn’t guarantee anything over the course of an 82-game season. But this year’s Canadiens should have something last year’s Canadiens didn’t have over the final five months of the season — Carey Price. These guys might be pretty good.