Hartford Whalers

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For the current NHL team, see Carolina Hurricanes. For the AHL team formerly known as the Connecticut Whale, see Hartford Wolf Pack.
Hartford Whalers
List of Hartford Whalers seasons
Founded 1972
History New England Whalers
19721979
Hartford Whalers
19791997
Carolina Hurricanes
1997–present
Home arena Boston Arena
Boston Garden
The Big E Coliseum
Springfield Civic Center
Hartford Civic Center
City Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.
Colors Green, black, white (1972–1975)
              
Green, gold, white (1975–1979)
              
Green, blue, white (1979–1992)
              
Navy, green, silver (19921997)
              
Stanley Cups 0
Avco World Trophy 1 1972–73
Conference championships 2 1972–73, 1977–78
Presidents' Trophies 0
Division championships 4 1972–73, 1973–74, 1974–75, 1986–87

The Hartford Whalers were a professional ice hockey team based for most of its existence in Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.A.. The club played in the World Hockey Association (WHA) 197279 and in the National Hockey League (NHL) 197997. In 1997, the franchise relocated to Greensboro, North Carolina, where it became the Carolina Hurricanes, thus resulting in Connecticut joining 20+ other states with no major league sports team.[1] In 1999 the franchise moved to Raleigh, North Carolina upon the completion of a new arena, then known as the Entertainment and Sports Arena (ESA), and now known as PNC Arena.

The team joined the WHA in the league's inaugural 1972 season. Originally based in Boston, Massachusetts, it was known as the New England Whalers throughout its time in WHA. The team moved to Hartford in 1974 and joined the NHL in the NHL–WHA merger of 1979.

WHA era[edit]

New England Whalers logo 1972-1979

Early seasons in Boston (1971)[edit]

The Whalers franchise was born in November 1971 when the World Hockey Association awarded a franchise to New England businessmen Howard Baldwin, John Coburn, W. Godfrey Wood and William Edward Barnes, to begin play in Boston, Massachusetts. The team began auspiciously, signing former Detroit Red Wing star Tom Webster, hard rock Boston Bruins' defenseman Ted Green (the team's inaugural captain), Toronto Maple Leafs' defensemen Rick Ley, Jim Dorey and Brad Selwood, and former Pittsburgh Penguins' goaltender Al Smith.

New England also signed an unusually large number of American players including Massachusetts natives and former US Olympic hockey team members Larry Pleau (who had been a regular with the Montreal Canadiens the previous season), Kevin Ahearn, John Cunniff and Paul Hurley. Two other ex-US Olympians on the Whalers roster (Minnesotans Timothy Sheehy and Tommy Williams) had spent a significant part of their careers in Boston with Boston College and the Bruins, respectively.

The Whalers would have the WHA's best regular-season record in the 1972–73 WHA season, with Webster leading the team in scoring and rampaging through the playoffs, and behind legendary ex-Boston University coach Jack Kelley, would defeat the Winnipeg Jets to win the inaugural Avco World Trophy, the WHA championship.

Relocation to Hartford (1974)[edit]

While in Boston, the club played their home games at the Boston Arena and Boston Garden. However game scheduling at Boston Garden (owned by the rival NHL Bruins) became increasingly difficult, and the owners decided to relocate the team to Hartford, Connecticut beginning with the 1974-75 season. The area, aside from various minor league teams in New Haven, had been largely bereft of pro hockey until the team's arrival. While waiting for their new arena in Hartford, the Whalers played the first part of the 1974-75 season at The Big E Coliseum in West Springfield, Massachusetts.

On January 11, 1975, the team played its first game in front of a sellout crowd at the Hartford Civic Center Coliseum. The franchise remained in Hartford until it relocated to North Carolina for the 1997-98 season, save for a temporary relocation to the nearby Springfield Civic Center in the late 1970s while their Hartford arena was being rebuilt after heavy snow followed by heavy rain caused the roof to collapse, which suffered from several engineering and construction shortcomings (See Hartford Civic Center Arena Roof Collapse).

Though they never again won the league championship, the New England Whalers were a successful team, never missing the playoffs in the WHA's history, and finishing first in its division three times. They had a more stable roster than most WHA teams—Ley, Webster, Selwood, Pleau, and Tommy Earl would all play over 350 games with the club—and scored a major coup when they signed legend Gordie Howe and his sons Mark and Marty from the Houston Aeros in 1977.

While the first two full seasons in Hartford were not glittering (the Whalers recorded losing records both years), the final two WHA seasons saw more success. They went to the finals again in 1978, with a veteran team spearheaded by the Howes—50-year-old Gordie led the team in scoring—future NHL stars Gordie Roberts and Mike Rogers, All-Star defenseman Ron Plumb, and forwards John McKenzie, Dave Keon and Mike Antonovich, and possessed of the league's best defense. The next season was not so fine, but while age finally caught up with Gordie Howe, the slack was picked up by Andre Lacroix, the WHA's all time leading scorer, acquired from the Aeros.

Admission to the NHL[edit]

As the New England Whalers were one of the most stable WHA teams, it was one of the four franchises admitted to the National Hockey League when the rival leagues merged in 1979. Following lobbying from the Boston Bruins, one of the conditions of the merger stipulated that the Whalers were to drop "New England" from their name. The Howes, Rogers, Ley, Keon, Smith, Roberts and Lacroix would go on to wear the uniform of the Hartford Whalers. The team also changed its colors to blue and green, a combination which was unused in the NHL at the time.

Unlike the other former WHA teams, the Whalers were not stripped of most of their players. Only Selwood, George Lyle and Warren Miller were reclaimed by their former NHL teams.

Career leaders (WHA, 1972–1979)[edit]

The NHL days[edit]

The original Hartford Whalers logo (1979–1992), designed by Peter Good, a Connecticut-based graphic designer. The logo combines a green "W" with a blue whale's tail to create the letter "H" in the negative (white) space. This logo was updated in 1992, the most noticeable change being the darkening of the colors and the addition of a silver background. Subtle changes to the shape of the whale's tail were also made, resulting in the logo seen at the top right of this page.

The Whalers were never as successful in the NHL as they had been in the WHA, yet they attracted a decent fan base over the years. They recorded three winning seasons in their eighteen years in the NHL, made the playoffs eight times, and won one playoff series, earning the nickname "Forever .500s". Whenever they did make the playoffs, they faced the near-certainty of having to get past the Boston Bruins or Montreal Canadiens to make it to the conference finals. The team developed a heated rivalry with the Bruins based two hours northeast of Hartford, because of the fact that they used to play in the same building. These games usually attracted the Whalers' biggest crowds, as many Bruins fans followed their team to Hartford. The Whalers achieved all-time record of 37–69–12 against the Bruins.

The Whalers were hampered by off-the-ice factors. Hartford was the smallest American market in the league, and was located on the traditional dividing line between the home territories for Boston and New York teams. This limited the team's marketability. Additionally, for most of the Whalers' tenure as an NHL team, the Hartford Civic Center was one of the smallest arenas in the league, with seating for 15,635 for hockey. The team only averaged over 14,000 twice in their 15 years at the Hartford Civic Center. They averaged only 13,867 from 1980 to 1997.

Inaugural NHL season[edit]

The Whalers' first NHL season in 1979–80 looked somewhat promising. They were led by Mike Rogers, Blaine Stoughton, Dave Keon, Mark Howe, Rick Ley, NHL legend Gordie Howe, and the all time WHA leading scorer Andre Lacroix along with the franchise's first starting goaltender Al Smith. The Whalers also acquired another NHL legend, Bobby Hull, near the trade deadline in 1980. They finished the season with 73 points and a playoff berth and had the best record of the four former WHA franchises that entered the NHL in 1979-80. Along with the Edmonton Oilers, the Whalers are the most recent first year expansion franchise to make the playoffs in their inaugural season in the NHL. In the first round of the playoffs, the Whalers were swept by the Montreal Canadiens three games to none. Following this season, Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull, and Andre Lacroix announced their retirements.

The early 1980s[edit]

Following the 79-80 season, the Whalers had many aging veterans left over from their WHA days. To make matters worse, the Whalers reputation of making disastrous trades began to unfold, as the team began to trade away stars for mediocre players in an attempt to gain depth. For instance, they traded star defenseman Mark Howe and their first NHL scoring leader, Mike Rogers, in separate deals for players and draft picks which never panned out, and also swapped hardrock defenseman Gordie Roberts (who would play 15 remaining pro seasons) for the remaining half-season of Mike Fidler's NHL career. The Whalers bottomed out in the 1982-83 season with a record of 19-54-7 and only 45 points and ranked 20th out of 21 teams in the NHL standings. On May 2, 1983, The Whalers hired Emile Francis as their new General Manager to rebuild the team. About two months later, on July 7, 1983, Francis hired Jack Evans to be the Whalers' new head coach. By the end of the 1986-87 season, Francis had cut or traded away every player from the 82-83 Whalers roster with the exceptions of Ron Francis and Paul MacDermid.

Success in the mid-1980s[edit]

The team had a brief moment in the sun in the 1985–86 and 1986–87 seasons. The Whalers began the 85-86 season looking like a playoff contender. By the end of January, they had a record of 26-20-1 with 53 points after 47 games. At this time, the Whalers began to struggle when they lost their franchise player Ron Francis and star goal scorer Kevin Dineen to injuries. As a result, the Whalers struggled through February winning only two games that month and they were soon in danger of missing the playoffs for the sixth year in a row. In March, Francis and Dineen returned from their injuries and the Whalers put up a record of 12-4-2 in the months of March and April. The Whalers finished fourth in the Adams Division in the 1985–86 regular season and earned a playoff berth for the first time since 1980. The Whalers went on to eliminate the first-place Quebec Nordiques in three straight games in the first round, winning their sole playoff series in Hartford. The Whalers then pushed the division finals to seven games, losing the final game 2–1 in overtime to the eventual Stanley Cup champions, the Montreal Canadiens. The Canadiens disposed of both the New York Rangers and Calgary Flames in five games in the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Finals respectively.

The following season, the Whalers won their lone division championship, led by centers Ron Francis and Ray Ferraro, emerging winger Kevin Dineen, defenseman Ulf Samuelsson, superstar goalie Mike Liut, and troubled scorer Sylvain Turgeon. The 93 points earned that season were the most they would earn as an NHL team in Hartford, however, they were quickly eliminated in the first round by the Nordiques. The Whalers got off to a good start in this playoff series by winning the first two games at home but, beginning in Game 3, the Nordiques were able to successfully get the Whalers off of their game by playing a very tough, dirty, and chippy style of hockey. As a result, both teams broke NHL records in penalty minutes for an individual playoff game and a whole playoff series. The Nordiques won the next four straight games and the series four games to two. While the team would make the playoffs for the next five seasons in a row, they never came close to duplicating their previous success, with one exception in the 1989–90 season.

The 1989–90 season[edit]

In the 1989-90 season, the Whalers finished seventh overall in the NHL standings and fourth overall in the Wales Conference with 85 points. This was the franchises second highest point total in the NHL while in Hartford. The regular season was highlighted by captain and franchise player Ron Francis putting up career highs in goals with 32, assisits with 69, and points with 101. Later in his career, Francis was only able to exceed 101 points once (in 1995-96) and he never again exceeded 32 goals in a single season. At the trade deadline, the Whalers first year General Manager Eddie Johnston made the first in a series of destructive trades by sending franchise goaltender Mike Liut to the Washington Capitals for center Yvon Corriveau. Liut was having a career year during the 89-90 season and this trade left the Whalers with second year goalie Peter Sidorkiewicz as their starter and rookie Kay Whitmore as the backup.

The Whalers went on to face the Boston Bruins in the first round of the playoffs. In Game 4, the Whalers were in front of their home crowd with a two games to one series lead and a 5-2 lead in the game going into the third period. The Bruins starting goaltender Reggie Lemelin was struggling throughout the series and was replaced by backup Andy Moog in the third period. At the same time Sidorkiewicz, began struggling in goal for the Whalers and the Bruins scored four unanswered goals in the third period and won the game 6-5. Sidorkiewicz struggled for the rest of the series and Moog was spectacular for the Bruins. Without Liut, the Whalers had to either stick with Sidorkiewicz, which they did, or use the unproven rookie, Kay Whitmore, in goal. Goaltending turned out to be one of the big differences in this series and the Bruins won it in seven games. The Bruins went on to dispose of the Canadiens in five games, then sweep the Capitals in the Wales Conference finals before losing in the Stanley Cup finals to the Oilers.

The Ron Francis trade[edit]

On March 4, 1991, Francis was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins along with Ulf Samuelsson and Grant Jennings for John Cullen, Zarley Zalapski, and Jeff Parker. Francis was one of the most popular players on the team, and held nearly every significant offensive record in the franchise's history (both WHA and NHL). The trade was savagely condemned by Whalers fans, most of whom weren't willing to believe The Hockey News assessment that the Whalers had actually gotten the better end of the bargain. Less than two weeks after the trade, Parker suffered a career ending knee injury. The Francis trade was made all the more painful when Francis and Samuelsson promptly helped lead the Penguins to two consecutive Stanley Cups. Coincidentally, Eddie Johnston, the Hartford general manager who had orchestrated the Francis trade, would follow him to Pittsburgh as the Penguins' head coach two years later.

The trades that Johnston made, especially the Ron Francis trade, proved to be disastrous for the Whalers since the players acquired did not pan out to expectations, leaving the Whalers depleted of talent and costing them substantial goodwill in Hartford. The links below show all of the trades and transactions Ed Johnston made as the General Manager of the Whalers.

The 1992 playoffs[edit]

The Whalers went to the playoffs for the final time in 1992 behind Jimmy Roberts' coaching, but faced the very heavily favored Montreal Canadiens in the Adams Division Semifinals. The Whalers lost Game 1 by a score of 2-0 and Game 2 by a score of 5-2 so it looked like the Canadiens would sweep the Whalers out of the first round, as they did in the 1989 playoffs. However, the Whalers came back home to win Games 3 and 4 by scores of 5-2 and 3-1 respectively. The main turning point in the series came in the second period of Game Five. The Whalers had a 3-1 lead midway through the second period. At this time, the Canadiens began rushing the crease and getting in the face of Whalers goaltender Frank Pietrangelo to distract him. This strategy worked as the Canadiens scored four unanswered goals in the final five minutes of the second period. These goals were not called back since this was before the time when the NHL began strictly enforcing crease infractions on goals. The Whalers lost Game 5 by a score of 7-4. The Whalers came back to win Game 6 by a score of 2-1 just 24 seconds into overtime on a goal by Yvon Corriveau. The series went back to Montreal for Game 7 and the Whalers lost a dramatic double overtime game by a score of 3-2, as Russ Courtnall scored on a turn-around shot against Pietrangelo. Corriveau had an excellent chance for a second consecutive overtime winner in the first overtime period on a breakaway but his shot missed the net.

Roberts was fired thereafter, along with General Manager Eddie Johnston. At the end of the three-year Johnston era, only seven players remained from the Whalers active roster prior to Johnston taking over as General Manager. Those players were forwards Ed Kastelic and Terry Yake, defensemen Randy Ladouceur, Brad Shaw, and Adam Burt, and goaltenders Peter Sidorkiewicz and Kay Whitmore. During the summer of 1992 following Johnston's departure, Shaw and Whitmore got traded away; Kastelic was let go via free agency; and Sidorkiewicz was lost to Ottawa in the expansion draft.

The Brian Burke and Paul Holmgren years[edit]

In the summer of 1992, the Whalers hired Brian Burke to replace Eddie Johnston as General Manager to rebuild the Whalers. Burke previously worked for the Vancouver Canucks and he helped them build the team that eventually went to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1994. Burke hired Paul Holmgren to be the Whalers new head coach. Holmgren previously was the head coach of the Flyers. Holmgren immediately named Pat Verbeek the new captain and he ended up playing on a line with young stars Andrew Cassels and Geoff Sanderson. The Whalers also acquired a goaltender Sean Burke in exchange for former first round draft pick Bobby Holik. Cassels, Sanderson, and Burke remained star players for the Whalers through their final season in Hartford. In addition, future NHL star Michael Nylander began his NHL career with the Whalers during the 1992-93 season. Since the 92-93 season was a rebuilding year for the Whalers, they finished the season with only 58 points, the second worst point total in franchise history.

The Whalers entered the 1993-94 season with high hopes from a core of young talented players. The Whalers were also able to draft defenseman Chris Pronger who began his career with the Whalers, playing alongside veteran defenseman Brad McCrimmon, and later became an NHL star. However, problems began at the management level when General Manager Brian Burke announced he would resign when the season began to take an executive position with the NHL. In addition, Burke had some disagreements with team owner Richard Gordon. After Burke left, Holmgren took over as Head Coach and General Manager. The Whalers started off the season poorly. Holmgren felt he was unable to handle the job of GM and Head Coach so he made Pierre McGuire the new Head Coach so Holmgren could focus on his duties as GM. The coaching change did not help the Whalers since McGuire was not popular with the players and the Whalers continued to struggle. The Whalers reached a low point in the season when six players and two assistant coaches were arrested in Buffalo after being involved in a bar room brawl. Pronger was one of the players arrested even though he was 19 years old at the time, two years below than the legal drinking age in New York state. Around this same time Paul Holmgren checked himself into rehab for alcohol addiction. The Whalers finished the season with 63 points, only a 5 point improvement from the previous season. One bright spot for the Whalers was the emergence of Sean Burke as their franchise and star goaltender. Another highlight of the 93-94 season was when Brian Propp scored his 1000th career NHL point with the Whalers. Propp announced his retirement after the season.

New ownership[edit]

In the summer of 1994, the Whalers were purchased, in a deal brokered by the Connecticut Development Authority, by Compuware CEO Peter Karmanos, along with partners Thomas Thewes, and Jim Rutherford. Rutherford became the team’s new General Manager and Holmgren came back as the Head Coach. The new ownership wanted to turn the team into a winner for the 1994-95 season so Rutherford went out to the free agent market and signed Jimmy Carson and Steven Rice. On draft day, the Whalers selected highly rated Jeff O’Neill in the first round. Rutherford also acquired defenseman Glen Wesley from the Bruins in exchange for three first round draft picks (Kyle McLaren, Johnathan Aitken, and Sergei Samsonov). Despite these acquisitions, the Whalers struggled at the beginning of the season, starting off with a record of 2-7-2. In mid February, the Whalers began improving led by their top line of Sanderson, Cassels, and Verbeek along with franchise goalie Sean Burke. For the next 30 games, the Whalers put up a record of 16-11-3 and it appeared as if the Whalers were on their way to their first playoff berth since 1992. Unfortunately, the Whalers played poorly down the stretch, winning only one game in the last seven and missed the playoffs by four points.

Before the beginning of the 1995-96 season, the Whalers management was frustrated with the slow development of highly rated prospect Chris Pronger. As a result, Pronger was sent to the St. Louis Blues for Brendan Shanahan. Shanahan was not happy with the trade even before playing a single game in Hartford. However, he was immediately made the team's new captain so he kept his frustrations about playing in Hartford silent for the 95-96 season. The Whalers won their first four games but then they struggled for the rest of the calendar year of 1995. As a result, Paul Maurice replaced Holmgren as Head Coach in November. On December 28, 1995, the Whalers got a huge morale boost when they reacquired one of their most popular players from the 1980s, Kevin Dineen. His skills and leadership had an immediate impact as the Whalers began playing much better in January. Despite the strong finish in the second half of the season, the Whalers were unable to recover from their poor start and they missed the playoffs for the fourth year in a row.

Before the beginning of the 1996-97 season, Brendan Shanahan ended his silence about his displeasure about playing in Hartford. Shanahan demanded a trade out of Hartford because he claimed he did not want to play in a small market for a team with an uncertain future about its location. Whalers fans and local media condemned Shanahan for his comments and he was immediately stripped of his captaincy; Kevin Dineen took over this role. Shanahan was traded away after the second game of the season. Despite these problems, the Whalers got off to a very good start with a 14-7-6 record after the first 27 games and they were in first place of their division. They were led by a strong first line of Sanderson, Cassels, and Dineen along with a solid second line of Keith Primeau, Jeff O'Neill, and Sami Kapanen. During the calendar year of 1996, the Whalers achieved a record of 41-30-10 in 81 games. In 1997 following the good start, the Whalers' season began to slip away. This included a 9-game losing streak in January and a 6-game losing streak in March. Despite the poor performance down the stretch, the Whalers still had an opportunity to make the playoffs in the final week of the season. However, the Whalers lost two games on the road to Ottawa and the NY Islanders, which eliminated them from the playoffs before their final regular season game against Tampa Bay.

Departure from Hartford[edit]

Compuware founder Peter Karmanos pledged to keep the Whalers in Hartford for four years when he purchased the team in 1994. However, two years later, frustrated with lackluster attendance and little corporate support, he announced that if the Whalers were unable to sell at least 11,000 season tickets for the 1996–97 season, he would likely move the team.[2] Furthermore, ownership only made season tickets available in full-season (41-game) packages, eliminating the popular six-, 10-, and 20-game mini plans in a strategy largely designed to spur purchases from corporations and wealthier individuals. Sales were underwhelming at the beginning of the campaign and at the end of the 1995–96 season it was still unknown whether the Whalers would stay in Connecticut past 1998 or move. However, thanks to an aggressive civic campaign, and the efforts of many fans (who pooled together resources to purchase some of the full-season packages collectively[citation needed]) the Whalers announced that they would stay in Connecticut through at least 1997. The "Save The Whale" campaign netted season ticket sales totaling 8,563 in less than a 45-day span despite the Whalers raising ticket prices by an average of 20 percent, eliminating partial ticket plans and increasing the deposit amount for season tickets by 750 percent. This represented an expansion of over 3,500 tickets from the existing base.[3]

In early 1997 Connecticut Governor John G. Rowland stated that he did not want to spend Connecticut taxpayer dollars to fund a new arena in Hartford. Despite this, negotiations between the Whalers and Rowland to build a new $147.5 million arena seemed to be going well. Despite a nearly completed agreement, talks fell apart at the last minute when Karmanos wanted an additional $45 million to cover losses during the three years the new arena was to be built. The Whalers ultimately announced that they would be leaving Hartford after the 1996-97 season. This marks one of the few times that a team announced it would leave its current city without having already announced an agreement with a new one. Karmanos stated that Rowland had no intention making a serious offer to keep the Whalers in Connecticut since Rowland harbored hopes to bring an NFL franchise to the state. Rowland went on to negotiate a tentative deal that would bring the New England Patriots to Connecticut, but those talks also fell apart after the state and the Patriots ownership failed to reach an agreement on a new stadium.[4][5][6]

Post-departure[edit]

On April 13, 1997, the Whalers played their last game in Hartford, defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning 2–1. Team captain Kevin Dineen, who had returned to Hartford midway through the 1995-1996 season after a brief stint in Philadelphia, scored the final goal in Whalers history. On May 6, 1997, Karmanos announced the team would move to Raleigh, North Carolina as the Carolina Hurricanes, playing its first two seasons in North Carolina at the Greensboro Coliseum while awaiting arena construction in Raleigh, a year earlier than planned. The following summer in 1997, the Binghamton Rangers (AHL affiliate of the New York Rangers) relocated to the Hartford market to take the place of the Whalers, renaming themselves the Hartford Wolf Pack.[7] To try to bring Whalers fans back to Hartford, Howard Baldwin announced that the Wolf Pack were changing their name to the Connecticut Whale in the middle of the 2010-11 season.[8] By the start of the 2013-14 season the team changed their name back to the Hartford Wolfpack.

As of the 2014 season, only one former Whaler was active in the NHL, Jean-Sebastien Giguere of the Colorado Avalanche. Several other former Whalers -- Robert Petrovicky, Sami Kapanen, Michael Nylander, Hnat Domenichelli and Marek Malik—are still active in European leagues.

Glen Wesley was the last Whaler still active with the Hartford/Carolina franchise, upon his retirement on June 5, 2008, though his stint was not continuous, playing seven games for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2003 after a deadline deal before re-signing in Carolina in the 2003 offseason.[9] Craig Adams was the last player drafted in Whalers' history and remains active in the National Hockey League as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, Adams did not become a member of the team until 2000, when the team had already moved to Carolina.[10]

Theme song[edit]

The Hartford Whalers' official theme song was "Brass Bonanza," a tune composed by an aspiring composer/musician Jack Say.[11] The song became a big hit after it was introduced in the mid-1970s. However, Brian Burke cancelled the use of the song in 1992 because he said "there were players who were embarrassed by it." After he left, it was quickly reintroduced.[12] The song is still very popular with Hartford crowds, and continues to occasionally be played at XL Center events, including games of the Connecticut Whale until 2013, the current AHL hockey team in Hartford that is named in honor of the NHL team and at the University of Connecticut's XL Center basketball games by the UConn Varsity Pep Band. It is also used by the Danbury Whalers of the FHL. In addition it's been played at Fenway Park in Boston during Red Sox games in between innings for several years.

"Brass Bonanza" was also the team's goal song whenever they had scored a goal. After 1992, Brian Burke replaced the song with a goal horn and the song "Rock and Roll Part 2" by Gary Glitter.

Season-by-season record[edit]

Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, Pts = Points, GF = Goals scored for, GA = Goals scored against, PIM = Penalty minutes

WHA - New England Whalers[edit]

Season GP W L T Pts GF GA PIM Finish Playoffs
1972–73 78 46 30 2 94 318 263 858 first, Eastern Won Quarter-final (Nationals)
Won Semi-final (Crusaders)
Won Final (Jets)
1973–74 78 43 31 4 90 291 260 875 first, Eastern Lost Quarter-final (Cougars)
1974–75 78 43 30 5 91 274 279 867 first, Eastern Lost Quarter-final (Fighting Saints)
1975–76 80 33 40 7 73 255 290 1012 third, Eastern Won Preliminary (Crusaders)
Won Quarter-final (Racers)
Lost Semi-final (Aeros)
1976–77 81 35 40 6 76 275 290 1254 fourth, Eastern Lost Quarter-final (Nordiques)
1977–78 80 44 31 5 93 335 269 1255 second, WHA Won Quarter-final (Oilers)
Won Semi-final (Nordiques)
Lost Final (Jets)
1978–79 80 37 34 9 83 298 287 1090 fourth, WHA Won Quarter-final (Stingers)
Lost Semi-final (Oilers)
WHA Totals 555 281 236 38 600 2,046 1,938 7,211

NHL - Hartford Whalers[edit]

Season GP W L T Pts GF GA PIM Finish Playoffs
1979–80 80 27 34 19 73 303 312 875 fourth, Norris Lost Preliminary (Canadiens)
1980–81 80 21 41 18 60 292 372 1584 fifth, Norris Did not qualify
1981–82 80 21 41 18 60 264 351 1493 fifth, Adams Did not qualify
1982–83 80 19 54 7 45 261 403 1392 fifth, Adams Did not qualify
1983–84 80 28 42 10 66 288 320 1184 fifth, Adams Did not qualify
1984–85 80 30 41 9 69 268 318 1606 fifth, Adams Did not qualify
1985–86 80 40 36 4 84 332 302 1759 fourth, Adams Won Adams Semifinal (Nordiques)
Lost Adams Final (Canadiens)
1986–87 80 43 30 7 93 287 270 1496 first, Adams Lost Adams Semifinal (Nordiques)
1987–88 80 35 38 7 77 249 267 2046 fourth, Adams Lost Adams Semifinal (Canadiens)
1988–89 80 37 38 5 79 299 290 1672 fourth, Adams Lost Adams Semifinal (Canadiens)
1989–90 80 38 33 9 85 275 268 2102 fourth, Adams Lost Adams Semifinal (Bruins)
1990–91 80 31 38 11 73 238 276 2209 fourth, Adams Lost Adams Semifinal (Bruins)
1991–92 80 26 41 13 65 247 283 1793 fourth, Adams Lost Adams Semifinal (Canadiens)
1992–93 84 26 52 6 58 284 369 2354 fifth, Adams Did not qualify
1993–94 84 27 48 9 63 227 288 1809 sixth, Northeast Did not qualify
1994–951 48 19 24 5 43 127 141 915 fifth, Northeast Did not qualify
1995–96 82 34 39 9 77 237 259 1834 fourth, Northeast Did not qualify
1996–97 82 32 39 11 75 226 256 1513 fifth, Northeast Did not qualify
NHL Totals 1,420 534 709 177 1,245 4,704 5,345 29,636
Grand Total 1,975 815 945 215 1,845 6,750 7,283 36,847
1Season was shortened due to the 1994–95 NHL lockout.

Notable players[edit]

Whaler banners hanging from the Hartford Civic Center rafters in 2007. The numbers 2, 9, and 19 were retired while the team was still in Hartford and honor Rick Ley, Gordie Howe, and John McKenzie. In 2006 the numbers 5, 10, and 11 were added, by Wolfpack management, in honor of Ulf Samuelsson, Ron Francis, and Kevin Dineen.

Hall of Famers[edit]

Team captains[edit]

Note: includes both WHA Whalers and NHL Whalers

Retired numbers[edit]

Hartford Whalers retired numbers
Player Position Tenure N° Retirement
2 Rick Ley D 1972–81 December 26, 1982
9 Gordie Howe RW 1977–80 February 18, 1981
19 John McKenzie RW 1977–79 1979

The retirement of McKenzie's number was notable, in so far as it was one of the only three instances in NHL history (the others being the NHL Quebec Nordiques retiring J. C. Tremblay's number and the Ottawa Senators retiring Frank Finnigan's number) that a NHL franchise retired the number of a player who had never played for it while the franchise was in the NHL.

After the move to North Carolina, the Hurricanes returned #2 and #19 to circulation; Glen Wesley was the only player to wear #2 in Carolina before that number was re-retired in 2009 in his honor. Howe's #9 remained officially retired by Carolina, and has never been issued since the relocation to North Carolina, but there is no banner to acknowledge it.[13]

First round draft picks[edit]

Note: This list does not include selections from the WHA.

Hartford Whalers individual records (NHL)[edit]

Franchise scoring leaders in Hartford[edit]

These are the top-ten point-scorers in Hartford Whalers' history, combining NHL and WHA totals.

Legend: Pos = Position; GP = Games played; G = Goals; A = Assists; Pts = Points; P/G = Points per game

Player Pos GP G A Pts P/G
Ron Francis C 714 264 557 821 1.14
Kevin Dineen RW 587 235 268 503 0.85
Mike Rogers C 434 182 285 467 1.08
Tom Webster RW 352 220 205 425 1.21
Pat Verbeek RW 433 192 211 403 0.93
Mark Howe LW/D 360 123 273 396 1.10
Blaine Stoughton RW 393 228 161 389 0.99
Larry Pleau RW 468 157 215 372 .79
Geoff Sanderson LW 439 189 163 352 .80
Ray Ferraro C 442 157 194 351 .79

Career leaders (NHL, 1979–1997)[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]