Hartford Whalers

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Whalers Night brings back fond memories, beautiful threads

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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
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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
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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.”

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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

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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.”

Video: Will Chris Pronger be elected into the to HHOF?

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The NHL on NBC crew takes a look at Chris Pronger’s Hall of Fame prospects now that he has officially become eligible.

Pronger, 40, appeared in 1167 games over 18 seasons with the Whalers, Blues, Oilers, Ducks and Flyers. He scored 157 goals and 698 points to go along with 1590 penalty minutes.

He won the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman and the Hart Trophy as the NHL MVP in 2000.

Pronger won Olympic gold with Team Canada in 2002 and 2010. He captured his lone Stanley Cup in 2007 while with Anaheim.

The Dryden, Ontario native was the first-round selection (2nd overall) of the Hartford Whalers in 1993.