Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Whaler Whiners Get Ink North of the Border

Here's the chair and here's the rope
Crowd shot taken during Arch St. Tavern's June 10th "Whalers Night"

From an article titled "Fans in Hartford, Conn., bittersweet over Hurricanes Stanley Cup run", June 10th, Canadian Press:

EDMONTON (CP) - If the Carolina Hurricanes win the Stanley Cup, there are some hardcore hockey fans in Hartford, Conn., who hope they take that great big silver mug and pound it out their blowhole.

It's been almost a decade since the Hartford Whalers left the northeast U.S. insurance capital to Raleigh, N.C., to become the Hurricanes. On Tobacco Road, the 'Canes contended for the Stanley Cup in 2002 and now lead the Edmonton Oilers in this year's NHL final series.

Al Victor, president of the Hartford Whalers Booster Club, admits he is a tormented man. "In my heart this will always be my team. Their roots are in Hartford, so it's bittersweet," said Victor, whose recreation room is a shrine to the team, filled with memorabilia and game-worn jerseys and painted in Whaler blue, grey and green.

Bob Rumbold is more bitter than sweet. "We're watching our franchise win the damn title and they're in sunny Carolina. It's unbelievable," he said. "The sentiment here is it should be going on across the street."

The Whalers played their last game on April 13, 1997, after then-owner and current 'Canes owner Peter Karmanos hit an impasse with politicians over financing for a new rink to replace the aging Hartford Civic Center. The Tampa Bay Lightning came to town that black April for the Whalers' final game. A message was painted on the Civic Center ice saying Thanks for the Memories.

Outside, fans got on hands and knees on the pavement to sign an oversized sheet of paper labelled the Whailing Wall to protest the move. Back inside, the stands were a sea of whale jerseys. Some fans refused to quit, two of them holding a sign that read We Believe.

Rumbold, a local TV sportscaster at Fox 61, was there with his young family. "We had two kids there with tears in their eyes. My daughter had a (Geoff) Sanderson jersey. She never wore it again."

Others have never forgiven or forgotten. Today, Whaler fan websites feature flash graphics of a whale eating Karmanos or a harpoon being run through his head. "To have Mr. Karmanos' name on the cup would turn my stomach," said Victor.

After the Whalers left, Victor's booster club peaked at 1,000 members, then dwindled to 13. There are now 65, many of them, says Victor, who enjoyed watching the Whalers as kids and want a franchise back.

One of them is Peter Morosky, who works in Norwich but often drives the 80 kilometres to attend booster club meetings. With the 'Canes in the final, Morosky doesn't play the what-if game. "You can only imagine what might have been. It's not something I dwell on."

In the sports world, Hartford is in the no-man's land between New York and Boston. Since the Whalers' demise, some fans have drifted to longtime Whaler rivals the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins. The city now has an American Hockey League team, the Wolf Pack, and Whaler jerseys can often be spotted in the crowds. The booster club makes annual trips to other NHL cities to watch games. They went once to Raleigh but didn't have the heart to go back.

In Hartford this week there's no sign their old team is close to winning it all. No one walks around with jerseys. There are no car flags. The Whalers glorious quarter-century history has been reduced to an afterthought tagline on sports reports about the Hurricanes, said Victor.

"It is what it is," added Rumbold. "It's bittersweet. There are some people who still root for (the Hurricanes) to win and other people in this town who think they can't lose enough."

If I had make one correction, it would be to point out that "Whalers jerseys can often be spotted at Wolf Pack games" is about as accurate as "Martians can often be spotted at the 7-11", but I guess I can live with it.

You can also check out A Whalers Fan's Worst Nightmare-- a post that I wrote a couple of days before the Canadian Press story-- to get a somewhat different (though in some ways similar) version of this never-ending fairy tale.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This people make me want to hurl.

6/13/06, 9:59 AM

Anonymous Al Victor's nut sack said...

G12 was right we should have crashed on our way to Canada

6/14/06, 6:02 PM


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