Like a long dead television franchise or a band that broke up long ago that is looking to cash more checks, the Hartford Whalers will rise again. Before you get too excited and dust off that green Kevin Dineen jersey with “Pucky” the Whale on the shoulders, let’s just stress that this isn’t about the NHL coming back to Hartford.
I know, I know… It’s heartbreaking. Still, former Whalers owner Howard Baldwin in his efforts to bring professional hockey back to central Connecticut has scored a victory for the city of Hartford in his own curious kind of way.
Thirteen years after the NHL Whalers departed for North Carolina, the AHL Wolf Pack will be rebranded as the Connecticut Whale. Howard Baldwin, the founding father of the Whalers, announced Monday afternoon his Hartford Hockey LLC will take over marketing and sales operations of the Wolf Pack.
Early reports indicated the team would be renamed the Connecticut Whalers. But Baldwin’s group decided on “Whale” for a variety of seasons, including feedback from fans of the Wolf Pack and Whalers.
“I kind of like the idea,” said Al Victor, president of the Whalers Booster Club. “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.”
Said Baldwin: “For as long as the team has been in existence, people have affectionately referred to the team as ‘The Whale.’ ”
The Connecticut Whale doesn’t have the same ring to it as the Hartford Whalers did and that’s fitting since this is just a painted up new version of the AHL’s Hartford Wolfpack. Trying to cash in on the nostalgia of the Whalers is something folks have gotten to be really good at in recent years, but making an honest effort to rekindle the love that many folks in New England had for hockey and the Whalers is truly a beautiful thing to see.
The logo won’t be the same, the brand of hockey won’t be the same, and the XL Center isn’t as goofy fun as it was when it was the Hartford Civic Center and you had to enter the arena by cutting through a shopping mall but if it’s something that makes the people in Hartford and the rest of Connecticut care for a team again, then that’s just perfect.