Mike Anthony: Hurricanes’ ‘Whalers Night’ money grab does not change past or impact future in Hartford

View The Original Article Here

Cue “Brass Bonanza,” Thursday’s press release out of Raleigh began.


The Carolina Hurricanes, what became of Hartford’s 1997 hockey nightmare, announced plans to wear Whalers uniforms for two games against the Bruins during the 2018-19 season. The team’s official website celebrated use of Hartford’s history, and some would argue Hartford’s heartbreak, for monetary gain by calling for the playing of Hartford’s song.

“Click here to secure your seats,” the press release ended.

It was worse on Twitter.

“It’s back,” was the post, accompanied by jersey photos and a whale emoji … and a link to a video that actually did pump the tunes of that beautiful song through phones and computers.

The Connecticut hockey community – a large portion of it, anyway – essentially scratched the needle across that record and sent a giant middle-finger emoji back with the gusto of a team starting a bench-clearing brawl.

“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 in a statement. “But we’ve never thrown away the records established during this franchise’s 18 NHL seasons in Connecticut. This is a chance to celebrate our team’s heritage.”

Please. It’s just money grab, of course. It’s a chance to sell tickets and jerseys and new Whalers paraphernalia, the kind that is faded and torn in the back of closets like, for many, a broken hockey heart. The Hurricanes, who won the Stanley Cup for the rabid fans of Tobacco Road in 2006, will wear the greatest uniforms in sports history, with the iconic logo featuring the whale tail around the negative-space H, Dec. 23 at home against the Bruins and again in Boston March 5, the latter game dangling Hartford’s misery before us just 90 miles up the road.

So with all that considered, I get the vitriol that spread through social media accounts in Connecticut Thursday, reaction to what can be considered a gross public display of a hockey corpse in decay for 21 years.

But I’ll say this, too. Hartford has got to get over it – the Hurricanes’ plans, the Whalers’ departure, all of it. Is “Whalers Night” disingenuous? Of course. New Hurricanes ownership, led by a Dallas billionaire who purchased a majority stake from Hartford’s most hated man, Peter Karmanos, doesn’t care about the franchise’s hockey past.

Still, the Whalers have been gone longer than they were in Hartford as an NHL team and nothing over the years has ignited any optimistic thoughts of the league’s return to Hartford, despite what Hartford mayor Luke Bronin seemed to insinuate Thursday. Seeing the Hurricanes fly up and down the ice as the Whalers will not change the past or impact the future.

The Canes are making a buck and, deep breath, as adults – because all Whalers fans are now adults – we have to say, “So what?” No matter how creepy this is.

There are few things worse in sports than the relocation of a franchise. Hartford bleeds with Quebec and other cities. But while the wound probably won’t ever heal, we’ve got to let go. Clearly, many of us have not, and the more we’re tethered to the Whalers and so sensitive to anything that goes on in Raleigh, the worse we look, the more we’re mocked, the smaller our great little city looks.

The Hurricanes will do what they will do and it’s on fans to be proud of what we had, unmoved by what is a little offensive.

I was initially indifferent toward Thursday’s announcement and remain largely so. I grew up playing hockey and going to Whalers games. The team took off in 1997, while I was a sophomore in college, up in New Hampshire. I watched from afar and felt punched in the gut. I hold Whalers memories sacred, reminders of innocent times and a true childhood joy. The intro song at my 2011 wedding reception? Brass Bonanza.

I don’t necessarily like the idea of Carolina benefiting from the money that will roll in via a look at our past and a reminder of our team’s kidnapping. But how long can we lament a breakup from another lifetime or clutch hopes of recapturing what we had?

The Hurricanes tweeted Whalers jersey pictures Thursday and wrote, “Honoring our past.” Bronin retweeted it, writing, “And your future.”


Whalers hockey is from another lifetime, another world. The Civic Center was brand new when the team arrived. Nowadays, the building is barely kept functional and above eyesore level by band-aids. Enough time has passed for a goofy announcement like Thursday’s to be met with a shoulder shrug. The team is not coming back, not under current circumstances, and, I must admit, I’ll get a kick out of seeing the uniforms used against the Bruins.

Still, I feel the anger out there. Facebook and Twitter were the coming-together places for Whalers fans sickened by announcement of a move long considered.

My thought months ago was that something should be worked out for the “Whalers” to play a regular-season game at the XL Center against the Colorado Avalanche, with the Avalanche wearing Quebec Nordiques jerseys. Once more, those two Adams Division also-rans, at the mall. It would be a real gesture by the folks in Carolina. A “Whalers Night” in Raleigh does little for me. It doesn’t move the needle – in either direction, really. It doesn’t recreate 1997 heartbreak to know that Hurricanes ownership is doing what everyone seems to do in 2018, come up with quirky ways to make a buck.

The Hurricanes are going to skate around collecting money in the clothes that were essentially stolen from us. So be it. We can’t be red-lined with anger, can’t be fragile. Our memories belong to us and they can’t be bought and sold.