This will be awkward. Two days before Christmas, long-suffering Hartford Whalers fans will get an extra holiday gift. Perhaps.
The Carolina Hurricanes, who left Hartford for North Carolina over two decades ago in 1997, will wear green Whalers uniforms for a pair of games in this National Hockey League season.
The Hurricanes will wear Whaler throwback uniforms on December 23 when they host the Boston Bruins. Carolina will don the Whaler green again for a second game in Boston on Tuesday, March 5.
Reaction has been split among some old Whaler fans while some fans at a high school soccer game in Avon last night just shrugged their shoulders over the plan.
“I see a lot of Whaler fans proudly wearing their shirts,” said Avon’s Jeff Allen, who grew up in Fairfield County. “I would think some fans would be proud to see them skate again.”
“Why not?” said Avon’s Jeff Wall, who grew up in New Jersey, and has been in the state for 12 years.
Reaction on Twitter was mixed. Some fans were excited about the prospect while others were not. Some old Whaler fans were not thrilled with the idea while some Carolina fans were upset, too.
The Hurricanes have been in the NHL longer (21 years) that the team was in Hartford (18 years) and have won a Stanley Cup in 2006.
“We’re proud of the history and traditions that we’ve built in 21 years in North Carolina,” Hurricanes president and general manager Don Waddell said. “This is a chance to celebrate our team’s heritage and the players and coaches who laid the groundwork for this franchise.”
That’s quite a change from the reign of former owner Peter Karmanos, who virtually ignored any mention of the Whalers and Hartford after he ripped the team from Connecticut in 1997.
I think it will be awkward for the Hurricanes to don Whaler green.
The team has been gone for two decades. All of the players are long gone from the ice. You will find some former Whalers in the coaching ranks such as Chicago’s Joel Quinneville and his assistant coach Kevin Dineen or former Whaler coach Paul Maurice who is in Winnipeg with the Jets.
Most fans have moved on. I adopted the Chicago Blackhawks for their high flying style of hockey under Quinneville with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and All-World defender Duncan Keith that won three Stanley Cup championships in six years.
Will it be nice to see Whaler green flying down the ice again? Sure. But the Hurricanes aren’t my team anymore and are the favorite of few, if any, Connecticut fans.
Is it nice to hear Brass Bonanza echo through the arena after a goal? Yes. But it is more satisfying to hear it after a goal by the UConn men’s hockey team or the National Women Hockey League’s Connecticut Whale. Those are our hockey teams now.
But I admit. I will probably watch the game and perhaps look to see the contest in Boston.
The owners of the Hurricanes are tempting us with nostalgia. It’s really all about the money and selling some additional jerseys. I get that. And I am OK with that. Personally, I’m waiting for the blue Whaler jersey that was worn by the team in their final four years in Hartford.
For those Whalers fans who find this distasteful and disrespectful, I understand.
I miss the Whalers. I would prefer them to return to Hartford. But that is probably never going to happen. So, the Hurricanes will peddle their green Whaler jerseys and pull in some extra dollars. If they want to attract a few more dollars, they should play an exhibition game in Hartford dressed in Whaler green.
Enjoy this Whaler spectacle this December and in March. Perhaps, you can adopt the Hurricanes for an evening and for a few hours watch your team in green compete against the hated Bruins on the ice. It’s not often we get another chance to relive times gone by.