CT Hockey Fans Will Never Forget Their Beloved Hartford Whalers
It was 24 years ago, on April 13, 1997, when the Hartford Whalers waved goodbye to their fans after defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1. It was the end of an NHL legacy in Connecticut.
According to the website ctinsider.com, team captain Kevin Dineen remained out on center ice as the final buzzer ended the game. Dineen addressed the packed crowd at the Hartford Civic Center and expressed his thanks to the fans for their endless support and enthusiasm for the Whalers.
As he followed his fellow players into the locker room, the Hartford Civic Center became a rousing cacophony of applause, cheering, and banner-waving. It was over, and then only a month later, the team moved south to North Carolina to become the Carolina Hurricanes. Here's a clip from the final Whaler's game.
Why did team owner Peter Karmanos move the team to North Carolina? The answer is simple. It was all about the underwhelming attendance and support. When Governor John Rowland wouldn't pony up taxpayer dollars to fund a new arena and Whaler ownership limited season tickets to only full-season packages, Karmanos made up his mind that he was done with Hartford.
The Whaler legacy and fandom live on through their diehard fans and, at times, through the Carolina Hurricanes, who have worn Hartford Whaler throwback jerseys multiple times during the season. If you're a forlorn Hartford Whaler fan, check out the Hartford Whaler Nation FB page.
NHL legend Gordie Howe played for the Whalers during their first NHL season in 1979-80. Kevin Dineen was drafted in 1982 and played with the team from 1984-91 and 1995-97. Dineen played 587 games and scored 235 goals and 268 assists. The most impressive and consistent player was Ron Francis, who scored 264 goals and 557 assists in 714 games.