Hartford Whalers

NHL on NBCSN: History of top-two picks facing off for first time

1 Comment

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Thursday’s matchup between the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko are always going to be compared. Not only because they were the top two picks in the 2019 NHL Draft, but because they are now going to be the centerpieces on each side of one of the league’s fiercest rivalries between the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers.

They will meet head-to-head for the first time on Thursday night when Hughes and the Devils host Kakko and the Rangers at Prudential Center in Newark.

With that in mind let’s take a little trip in the time machine and recall some of the more notable first-ever meetings between top-two picks in the same draft class.

2016-17: Patrik Laine (Winnipeg Jets) vs. Auston Matthews (Toronto Maple Leafs)

Date: October 19, 2016
Result: 
The No. 2 overall pick (Laine) ended up stealing the show in this game as the Jets overcame a 4-0 deficit to beat Matthews and the Maple Leafs in overtime thanks almost entirely to the play of Laine. He was outstanding on the night, scoring three goals — including the overtime winner — and giving Jets fans one of their first glimpses of his ability to take over a game and dominate it. Both teams have become contenders in the years since, but only Laine and the Jets have gone on any kind of a playoff run to get close to a championship to this point.

2015-16: Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers) vs. Jack Eichel (Buffalo Sabres)

Date: March 1, 2016.
Result: The Sabres spent the entire 2014-15 season losing hockey games — to the delight of their fans and front office — in a quest to finish with the league’s worst record to put them in a position to secure one of the top two picks in the draft where McDavid and Eichel would be waiting. The ultimate prize was McDavid, and the one that the entire season-long tankfest was inspired by. But instead of going to Buffalo, the league’s worst team over the previous two years, the Oilers snuck in to win their fourth draft lottery in six years to steal McDavid away from Buffalo. Eichel turned out to be a fine consolation prize, but in their first head-to-head meeting McDavid single-handedly drove the Oilers to a win by scoring both goals in a 2-1 overtime win. Neither team has found much sustained success in the years since, but both are off to great starts this season. 

2009-10: John Tavares (New York Islanders) vs. Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay Lightning

Date: Dec. 5, 2009
Result: This was an intriguing one because you could start a debate on what type of player you would rather build your team around — a star No. 1 center or a No. 1 defender. The Islanders ended up going with the center (Tavares) leaving the Lightning with the defender (Hedman) at No. 2. In their first meeting it was Hedman that got the better of it, playing 22 minutes and recording an assist in a 4-0 Lightning win. Tavares was a great player for the Islanders, but the team managed just one postseason series win before he left in free agency to return home to Toronto. Hedman is one of the best defenders in the league and remains a focal point of a Stanley Cup contender for a Lightning team that has been one of the league’s best over the past five years.

2006-07: Alex Ovechkin (Washington Capitals) vs. Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh Penguins)

Date: Dec. 11, 2006
Result: The top two picks in the 2004 NHL draft had to wait two years to face off due to an NHL lockout and Malkin not immediately making the jump to the NHL. When they finally met it was a hectic game with Malkin and the Penguins overcoming a 4-0 deficit to beat the Capitals, 5-4. Malkin scored the game-winning goal and added an assist, while Ovechkin had two helpers. The Penguins-Capitals rivalry always focussed on Crosby and Ovechkin, but the Malkin-Ovechkin dynamic was almost even more interesting because they were the top two picks in the same draft (with both teams rebuilding the year before trying to position themselves for Ovechkin), were from the same country, and for a while seemed to have a genuine dislike for one another.

[MORE: Hughes, Kakko unfazed ahead of first Devils-Rangers game]

1997-98: Joe Thornton (Boston Bruins) vs. Patrick Marleau (San Jose Sharks)

Date: October 11, 1997
Result: 
The intrigue here wasn’t necessarily what happened in this game (Marleau had one assist in a run-of-the-mill Sharks win), but what happened years later when Thornton and Marleau ended up becoming teammates in San Jose. The Bruins traded Thornton to the Sharks in the middle of the 2005-06 season, uniting him with Marleau where the two of them would be the focal point of the franchise more than a decade (they were reunited again earlier this season when Marleau returned to San Jose as a free agent).

1993-94: Alexandre Daigle (Ottawa Senators) vs. Chris Pronger (Hartford Whalers)

Date: Nov. 10, 1993
Result: The Senators were so bad at the end of their inaugural season 1992-93 season that they were accused of intentionally losing games in order to secure the top pick in an effort to select Daigle, ultimately helping to lead to the creation of the draft lottery. The Senators ended up picking Daigle No. 1 overall and hindsight would not be kind to this pick. Not only because Daigle was a bust, but because the player selected immediately after him (Pronger) went on to become one of the all-time greats on defense and one of the most impactful players in league history. In their first matchup Daigle actually got the better of it, scoring a goal (already his seventh in his first 13 games!) in a 4-3 win over Pronger and the Whalers.

1984-85: Pittsburgh Penguins (Mario Lemieux) vs. New Jersey Devils (Kirk Muller)

Date: Oct. 24, 1984
Result: The Penguins and Devils were two historically bad teams during the 1983-84 season and there was a huge prize waiting for the worst of the two in the 1984 draft — Mario Lemieux. The Penguins succeeded in being just a little bit worse and selected Lemieux. It was a franchise-altering moment that ended up saving the team for the first time. Muller and the Devils ended up winning the first game and it was one of the few times during Lemieux’s rookie season that he was held off the scoresheet.

Kathryn Tappen will host NHL Live on Thursday with analysts Patrick Sharp and Keith Jones. Kenny Albert, Mike Milbury and Pierre McGuire will have the call from Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.

Whalers Night brings back fond memories, beautiful threads

Associated Press
5 Comments

It’s been over 20 years since the Hartford Whalers took the ice for a hockey game in the National Hockey League. On Sunday, their spirit was resurrected one more time on Whalers Night at PNC Arena in Raleigh.

The Carolina Hurricanes — who moved from Hartford for the 1997-98 season — paid homage to their former selves by donning their old threads and green helmets as they faced off against former Northeast Division foes in the Boston Bruins.

And my, oh my, did those sweaters look great on the ice once again.

“The motivation was primarily around [the fact that] it’s interesting, it looks great and it’s a way do something different,” Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon told NHL.com. “It’s a long season and we’re in the entertainment business and this is going to make this night different and enjoyable and connect with fans whether it’s in Hartford or anywhere else. So, I hope they enjoy it.”

Of course, no Whalers game would be complete without that iconic goal song, the Brass Bonanza.

Teuvo Teravainen did the honors, scoring at 12:55 of the first period to get fans into the groove.

And then it happened three more times in succession as the Whalers… err… Hurricanes battled back from being down 2-0 to lead 4-2.

The Hurricanes went on to win 5-3. Teravainen added another goal for a two-goal night, and Sebastian Aho had two of his own in the win.

Petr Mrazek, who had a beautiful special mask made to mark the occasion, made 27 saves.

Other highlights included the return of Pucky the Whale, Hartford’s old mascot (who was never a physical mascot during their time in Conneticutt.

There, of course, was a ceremonial puck drop to be had, too.

Whalers legend Mike Rogers was on hand to do the honors.

The Whalers have quite the history and a who’s who of some of the greatest ever to play the game in their lineage — from their days in the World Hockey Association to their integration into the NHL.

Paul Coffey, Ron Francis, Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull, Dave Keon are among the legends to wear Whalers green.

The Whalers uniforms will be back on the backs of the Hurricanes in March when they face Boston at TD Garden.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Hurricanes to wear Hartford Whalers jerseys twice this season

Hurricanes
12 Comments

Crank up the “Brass Bonanza,” slap on your Ray Ferraro mustache, and check your spelling of “Sidorkiewicz” because this season the Carolina Hurricanes will be bringing back an old favorite.

When the Hurricanes host the Boston Bruins on Dec. 23, it’ll be Whalers Night and the franchise will return to its roots against their old Adams Division rivals and wear these beauties:

Hurricanes
Hurricanes

(Note the small Hurricanes touch inside the collar.)

“We’re proud of the history and traditions that we’ve built in 21 years in North Carolina. But we’ve never thrown away the records established during this franchise’s 18 NHL seasons in Connecticut,” said Hurricanes President and GM Don Waddell in a statement. “This is a chance to celebrate our team’s heritage and the players and coaches who laid the groundwork for this franchise.”

The jerseys, which the Whalers wore from 1985-89 and 1990-91, will also be worn March 5 when the Hurricanes visit the Bruins.

Sadly, Chuck Kaiton won’t be around to call those games.

The Whalers played their final NHL game on April 13, 1997 three weeks before owner Peter Karmanos announced the franchise would move to Raleigh, North Carolina to become the Hurricanes.

This move doesn’t come as a surprise when you remember new Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon’s comments from earlier this year. In speaking with ESPN 99.9 The Fan in Raleigh in January, he was open to the idea of bringing back Whalers jerseys for games. 

“I think that’s an unbelievably good look. I love it,” Dundon said. “I think we should have a store that sells that Whalers merchandise online. I think we should explore playing games in that jersey and selling that gear. It’s part of the legacy.”

Whalers gear has been available for purchase in the NHL’s online shop and their store in New York City for several years, and not long after that Dundon interview the Hurricanes began selling the beloved vintage merchandise in their stores. A weird techno version of “Brass Bonanza” was even a candidate in the team’s goal song contest over the summer, losing out to Petey Pablo’s “Raise Up.”

Now, as Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy hopes, will the Hurricanes ever play a game back in Hartford with these jerseys?

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Chuck Kaiton, longtime voice of Whalers/Hurricanes, out after 39 years

Hurricanes
16 Comments

Tom Dundon’s changes within the Carolina Hurricanes organization will apparently include the team’s longtime radio voice.

Chuck Kaiton, who started with the franchise back in 1979-80 — you know, when they were the Hartford Whalers — is out as the radio play-by-play man after rejecting a new contract that came with a significant pay cut.

From Luke DeCock of the News and Observer:

Kaiton’s agent submitted a counterproposal to the Hurricanes after Kaiton’s contract expired on June 30, but the team stood firm on its final offer to the broadcaster, which included a dramatic pay cut as the Hurricanes and new owner Tom Dundon attempt to reckon with their money-losing radio broadcast while giving Kaiton the opportunity to recoup some of the losses by selling sponsorships, which is the kind of arrangement more typical on the minor-league level.

Here’s a statement from Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell on the decision:

“After a series of discussions with Chuck and his representation throughout the summer, Chuck informed us today that he will not be returning as our radio broadcaster. We thank Chuck for his service over 38 seasons and appreciate everything he has done to represent this franchise for such a long time.

“As for the future of our radio broadcasts, we are exploring our options, especially the possibility of airing the audio from our FOX Sports Carolinas television broadcast. John Forslund is one of the top play-by-play men in our sport and we are confident his call will sound terrific on the radio as well.”

According to DeCock, the radio station carrying games was paid by the team, but barely garnered 2,000 listeners for each game. It wasn’t a money-making situation for the Hurricanes.

Having been a part of the organization for so long, Kaiton was able to call some of the biggest moments in Whalers/Hurricanes history, like in 1997 when Kevin Dineen scored the final goal in Whalers history:

Of course, there was the night the Hurricanes beat the Edmonton Oilers in Game 7 to win the 2006 Stanley Cup (don’t mind the quality):

The franchise icon was honored by the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2004 when Kaiton was named the recipient of the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award, which is given to “members of the radio and television industry who make outstanding contributions to their profession and the game of ice hockey during their broadcasting career.”

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Under new owner, Hurricanes embrace Hartford Whaler history

Getty Images
10 Comments

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The new owner of the Carolina Hurricanes has a soft spot for his team’s old identity – the Hartford Whalers.

In the month since Tom Dundon assumed control of the Hurricanes, they’ve brought back the old ”Brass Bonanza” fight song, stocked the shelves in the team store with that beloved whale-tail logo and have discussed bringing back the Whalers, too – if only for a future turn-back-the-clock night.

Under his leadership, the Hurricanes have done a 180-degree turn in the way they view, market and appreciate their past.

”It’s ours, right? I mean, it’s who we were. It’s part of the history,” Dundon said in an interview with The Associated Press. ”To me, it makes a lot of sense. … This was too easy. ‘How could I not?’ was probably the better question.”

In the month since Dundon bought a majority share of the team from longtime owner Peter Karmanos Jr., the 46-year-old Dallas businessman has made several changes – most visibly, the embracing of who the Hurricanes were before they became the Hurricanes.

That’s a drastic shift from their approach under Karmanos. He purchased the Whalers in 1994 and moved the franchise to North Carolina three years later, never looking back after seven consecutive losing seasons in Connecticut and complaints about attendance at what was then known as the Hartford Civic Center.

That’s not the case anymore.

The Hurricanes are selling Whalers T-shirts and jerseys – with that distinctive ”H” formed in the empty space between a ”W” and a whale tail – in their team store. They occasionally play ”Brass Bonanza” during stops in play. And Dundon says he’s working with the league on a plan to ”wear the uniform and sort of make it part of what we do” as part of a nostalgia night.

”I think it’s really good-looking stuff, so for me it was like, this is great gear, and this is where we’ve come from, and you know, I think it’s fun,” Dundon said. ”And so for me, this is supposed to be fun, it’s entertainment, and we’re supposed to care about the team, and you see something like that that looks good and creates something to talk about and something to enjoy.”

Not surprisingly, the Whalers’ identity has long had a strong sentimental attraction throughout the hockey world – especially in their former home.

The state of Connecticut is selling Whalers license plates for $60 to help fund new facilities at a children’s hospital. And just last week, Gov. Dan Malloy issued an open letter to Dundon to invite the Hurricanes back to the Hartford area for an outdoor game at Rentschler Field, the UConn football team’s home field, or to play a regular-season game at their former home rink.

Wrote Malloy: ”In short, the Whalers’ spirit is alive and well in Hartford.”

In North Carolina, though, Dundon’s arrival and subsequent appreciation for the team’s green-and-blue past has brought some buzz back to a team that is making a push for just its second playoff appearance since winning the Stanley Cup in 2006. He also has quashed those pesky, persistent relocation rumors that have plagued the franchise for years.

Dundon says his fans-first ownership style was influenced by a pair of Dallas-based team owners – Mark Cuban of the NBA’s Mavericks, and Jerry Jones of the NFL’s Cowboys. He ”had a front-row seat to everything they did” as the Mavericks transformed from cellar-dweller to NBA champion.

”I saw what they did with that brand over 10 years, and I don’t think anyone would have believed that the Mavericks could ever be what they became,” Dundon said. ”And with the Cowboys … Jerry has a constant focus on engaging fans and bringing attention to that brand. He thinks, probably, way bigger than I do and takes bigger risks. He’s just a genius at how he operates that team. So I’ve watched these things. I don’t think I’m going to do anything exactly like anyone else, but I’d like to think I can learn from seeing it.”

”We want to make sure that the team’s interesting, and we’re interesting, and right now the story is, the team’s going to make the playoffs and there’s an ownership change,” Dundon said. ”Hopefully in the future, it’s about all the winning we’re doing.”