Plymouth Whalers

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Plymouth Whalers
Plymouth Whalers Logo.svg
City Plymouth, Michigan
League Ontario Hockey League
Conference Western
Division West
Operated 1997 (1997)–2015
Home arena Compuware Arena
Colors Navy blue, white, green and silver
Franchise history
1990–1992 Detroit Compuware Ambassadors
1992–1995 Detroit Junior Red Wings
1995–1997 Detroit Whalers
1997–2015 Plymouth Whalers
2015–present Flint Firebirds
The Plymouth Whalers and Saginaw Spirit line up for a faceoff at the Compuware Arena.
Whalers 10th Anniversary Logo
Plymouth Whalers team bus

The Plymouth Whalers were a major junior ice hockey team in the Ontario Hockey League. They played out of Compuware Arena in Plymouth, Michigan, USA, a suburb of Detroit.


The Whalers can trace their roots back to the 1990–91 Detroit Compuware Ambassadors as an expansion team in the OHL. Since then the franchise has been the Detroit Junior Red Wings and the Detroit Whalers. In 1998 they were officially called the "Plymouth Whalers" after the local municipality gave generous tax breaks to the team and venue. The franchise had been owned by Peter Karmanos since its inception until 2015.

The Whalers had been part of the Compuware Hockey program since 1990, which also includes the Compuware Ambassadors minor hockey program and the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes, who were formerly the Hartford Whalers, the namesake of the Detroit Whalers. The Carolina Hurricanes tended to give preference to players from the Plymouth Whalers in the NHL Entry Draft owing to common ownership (Karmanos owns both the Hurricanes and the OHL Whalers), and coaches and executives are promoted from within the Compuware Hockey affiliation. Chad LaRose is the only player to have played at every level of Compuware hockey; Compuware AAA Ambassadors, Plymouth Whalers, Florida Everblades, Lowell Lock Monsters, and the Carolina Hurricanes.

Plymouth is one of only two teams to win 5 consecutive division titles (West division from 1999–2003, the other team being the Ottawa 67's (East division from 1996–2000). Plymouth has made the playoffs 23 consecutive seasons, since the 1991–92 season. The Whalers reached the OHL finals two consecutive seasons in 1999–2000, and 2000–01, losing to the Barrie Colts and Ottawa 67's. These seasons included future NHLers David Legwand, Justin Williams, Robert Esche, and Stephen Weiss.

Celebrating their 10th Anniversary playing at the Compuware Arena during the 2005–06 season, all current Whalers players had been brought into the system by head coach and general manager Mike Vellucci. This created the build-up for the next year. Headed by overage captain John Vigilante, the team's rookies in 2003 and 2004 came to fruition in James Neal, Dan Collins, and Tommy Sestito. Vellucci acquired the Belleville Bulls' leading scorer Evan Brophey and the Toronto St. Michael's Majors goaltender Justin Peters, who had an extensive resume. On the last game of the season, the Whalers played the Saginaw Spirit, with the division title on the line, in what has been proven to be one of most exciting OHL games in recent history. With the Whalers' 2-0 lead going into the third period, the Spirit fought back and managed the tying goal just before time expired. However, Brophey scored in overtime to clinch the Whalers' 9th division title.

During the 2006–07 season, rookie goaltenders Jeremy Smith and Michal Neuvirth, combined for the lowest goals against average in the OHL, with only 173 goals against in total. The Whalers had a number of high prospects signed or drafted by NHL teams, including former Wayne Gretzky 99 Award winner Daniel Ryder, who was acquired, with him already having been signed with the Calgary Flames. After a very inconsistent start, the team improved to fall short of the London Knights by one point for the Hamilton Spectator Trophy. During the second half of the season and through the playoffs, the Whalers featured a 23-game winning streak at home, lasting three and a half months, falling at Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals to London. The Whalers, although seeded #2, easily won the Wayne Gretzky Trophy as Western Conference playoff champion, sweeping #7 Guelph, and winning in 5 against both #3 Kitchener and #1 London. In the final, the Whalers defeated the Sudbury Wolves in six games to win the J. Ross Robertson Cup, thus earning the right to represent the OHL in the 2007 Memorial Cup.

In the Memorial Cup, the team suffered a rough start, losing to the Vancouver Giants 4-3 in overtime on May 18, and again to the Medicine Hat Tigers 4-1 on May 21. Their fortunes would change, however, on May 22, when they would defeat the Lewiston Maineiacs 2-1 in overtime, thus putting them in the tiebreaker game on May 24, in which they would defeat Lewiston again, 5-1, eliminating the Maineiacs from the Memorial Cup and advancing to the semifinal. However, on May 25, the Whalers would lose again to the Vancouver Giants in the semifinal round, this time in dramatic fashion by a score of 8-1. This way, the Whalers finished the 2007 Memorial Cup in third place.[1]

During the 2007–08 season, the Whalers dealt the goaltender that led them to their 2007 OHL Championship, Michal Neuvirth, early, to make room for Jeremy Smith to start. Neuvirth was among 12 players that left/were traded from that team, leaving the team looking to a number of young players for leadership. Chris Terry led the team in scoring and was helped by overage captain Andrew Fournier and up-and-comer AJ Jenks. In mid-December 2007, President and GM Mike Vellucci left his head coaching position for Greg Stefan. A late season injury to overage defenseman Wes Cunningham hampered the flow of the team, leading to an early playoff exit at the hands of the eventual OHL champions, the Kitchener Rangers.

Early in the 2008–09 season, Stefan was recalled to the Hurricanes, where Mike Vellucci came back to fill the head coaching role. Injuries and inconsistency plagued the team, as they fell to dead last in the league. After the coaching change, as well as key trades, including a short lived experiment with Cory McGillis, then-leading scorer Matt Caria from the Greyhounds, Scott Fletcher from the Ice Dogs, and the return from AHL-playing Brett Bellemore, the team saw a turn around by Christmas putting them back into the middle of the pack. At the deadline, as a result of Bellemore's return and the emergence of Matt Hackett as the new starting goaltender, Patrick Lee and Jeremy Smith were traded to Niagara for draft picks.

The 2009–10 season saw the Whalers led by league MVP Tyler Seguin along with other top scorers such as Myles McCauley.

On December 29, 2013, the Whalers and the London Knights broke the newly set Canadian Hockey League attendance record. The Knights and Whalers, playing in the second OHL game of the evening outdoors at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan (also the second outdoor game ever played in the OHL), played in front of 26,384 spectators. The Whalers won the game 2-1 in a shootout.[2]

On January 14, 2015, owner Peter Karmanos announced that the Whalers would be relocated to Flint, MI after a sale of the team to the owner of Flint's Perani Arena and Event Center for the 2015–16 season. The OHL approved the sale, and the relocated franchise is named the Flint Firebirds. On March 21st the Plymouth Whalers played their final game in franchise history losing 5-1 to the Erie Otters. [3][4]


The Plymouth Whalers have won eight divisional titles, five of them consecutively. Plymouth has also won three Hamilton Spectator trophies and reached the OHL Championship Finals three times, winning during the 2006–07 season.


  • 1995–01 Peter DeBoer (6 seasons) - DeBoer was promoted from assistant coach to become coach & general manager of the Whalers organization in 1995. DeBoer was twice voted the OHL Coach of the Year, winning the Matt Leyden Trophy in the 1998–99 and 1999–2000 seasons. DeBoer left to coach the Kitchener Rangers.
  • mid-2007-mid-2008 Greg Stefan (2 seasons) - Stefan began his coaching career in 1993 with the Detroit Junior Red Wings. He served as an assistant coach in Plymouth until 1998, and re-joined the Whalers as director of player development and assistant coach in 2003. Named head coach during the 2007–08 season when Vellucci moved to focus on the front office, Stefan left the Whalers in the middle of the 2008–09 season to take a scouting job with the Carolina Hurricanes.
  • 2001-mid-2007; mid-2008–pres Mike Vellucci (8th season) - Vellucci was promoted to President of the Plymouth Whalers in 2000 and was appointed the team's general manager and head coach in 2001. In 2007, Vellucci won the Matt Leyden Trophy as Ontario Hockey League Coach of the Year - the first American ever to win the award. Vellucci stepped down in the middle of the 2007–08 season to focus on his GM position. He returned as head coach of the club in the middle of the 2008–09 season with Stefan's moving to the Hurricanes.


  • Windsor Spitfires: proximity, considering the 30 mile distance between the two teams' arenas, has made this the Whalers' largest rivalry.
  • Saginaw Spirit: The Spirit are another major rival of the Whalers, due to both proximity and the fact that Saginaw is the other Michigan-based OHL team, making games between the two a battle for state bragging rights. Also, the Whalers traded to get the Spirit's captain on a run in the playoffs in 2003, and beat the Spirit for the division title in overtime on the last game of the season in 2006.
  • London Knights: bad blood and reputation, considering the nature of the Whalers to be quick to start a fight to change momentum, and the propensity of the Knights to resort to questionable tactics when skill is thrown out for grit/goonery. Many games end up with multiple fights. The Whalers opened the door for the modern Knights' dominance by losing to them in the first round of the 2002 playoffs, despite Plymouth being ranked #1 and London being seeded #8. A line brawl involving some Knight players coming off of the bench to fight Whalers while a goaltender fight at center ice in 2005-2006 was a memorable start, as well as the Whalers being one of only a few teams to defeat the Knights the previous season. A check to the head by Jared Boll on Robbie Drummond started another series of fights, as well as a hit-from-behind by Tom Sestito on Patrick Kane.

The last few years, the Whalers, Spitfires, and Knights have been league leaders in fighting majors.[5]


Retired numbers[edit]

14 - Pat Peake is the only number retired by the Whalers organization. Peake (who played in the Junior Red Wings era) was a two-season captain, the first MVP for the franchise in 1992–93, as well as Canadian Hockey League player of the year, and OHL Most Sportsmanlike player of the year. He has the most career points in franchise history.

Team captains[edit]

Award winners[edit]

Notable players[edit]

First round NHL Entry Draft picks[edit]

Players who were drafted in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft while playing for the Whalers franchise.

Second round NHL Entry Draft picks[edit]

Players who were drafted in the second round of the NHL Entry Draft while playing for the Whalers franchise.

NHL alumni[edit]

List of Plymouth Whalers alumni who have played in the National Hockey League.

Current roster[edit]

# Player Catches NHL rights Hometown
29 Canada Zack Bowman L Eligible in 2015 St. Catharines, Ontario
39 United States Alex Nedeljkovic L CAR 2014 Parma, Ohio
# Player Shoots NHL rights Hometown
2 Canada Alex Peters L DAL 2014 Blyth, Ontario
3 Canada Alex DiCarlo L Eligible in 2015 Woodbridge, Ontario
5 United States Tyler Sensky L Eligible in 2015 Canton, Michigan
6 United States Mitch Jones L Free Agent Rochester, Michigan
20 United States Josh Wesley R CAR 2014 Raleigh, North Carolina
24 Canada Mathieu Henderson L Eligible in 2015 Brantford, Ontario
27 Switzerland Yannick Rathgeb R Eligible in 2015 Langenthal, Switzerland
32 Canada Gianluca Curcuruto L Free Agent Richmond Hill, Ontario
# Player Position Shoots NHL rights Hometown
7 Canada Francesco Vilardi C L Eligible in 2015 Kingston, Ontario
10 Canada Nicholas Caamano LW L Eligible in 2016 Ancaster, Ontario
11 United States Connor Chatham RW R NJD 2014 Shiloh, Illinois
13 Canada Liam Dunda LW L Eligible 2015 Grimsby, Ontario
16 Sweden Victor Crus Rydberg C R NYI 2013 Tingsryd, Sweden
17 Canada Bryce Yetman RW R Eligible in 2015 Whitby, Ontario
18 United States Danny Vanderwiel LW L Eligible in 2015 Island Lake, Illinois
19 Canada Cullen Mercer C R Eligible in 2015 Exeter, Ontario
21 United States Ryan Moore C R Eligible in 2015 Troy, USA
23 Canada Connor Sills RW R Eligible in 2015 Thunder Bay, Ontario
28 Canada Brook Hiddink RW R Eligible in 2015 St. Thomas, Ontario
38 United States Vincent Scognamiglio RW R Eligible in 2015 St. Louis, Missouri
41 Canada Will Bitten C R Eligible in 2016 Gloucester, Ontario
82 United States Sonny Milano LW L CBJ 2014 Massapequa, New York
90 Canada Mathew Campagna C L Free Agent Mississauga, Ontario

Franchise records[edit]

A complete list of team records can be found here.

Team records for a single season
Statistic Total Season
Most points 106 1998–99
Most wins 51 1998–99
Most goals for 330 1992–93
Least goals for 198 2004–05
Least goals against 162 1998–99
Most goals against 378 1990–91
Individual player records for a single season
Statistic Player Total Season
Most goals Chad LaRose 61 2002–03
Most assists Kevin Brown 91 1992–93
Most points Bob Wren 145 1992–93
Most points, rookie David Legwand 105 1997-98
Most points, defenseman Bill McCauley 102 1994–95
Most PIM David Benn 305 1991–92
Best GAA (goalie) Robert Holsinger 2.08 1998–99
Most wins (goalie) Rob Zepp 36 1999–2000
Goalies = minimum 1500 minutes played

Top scorers[edit]

Top scorers in the history of the franchise.[edit]

Player Years GP G A Pts PIM
Pat Peake 1990–92 162 138 181 319 162
Bob Wren 1991–94 182 115 188 303 220
Chris Terry 2005–09 253 114 175 289 352
Todd Harvey 1991–95 173 113 157 270 310
Kevin Brown 1992–94 113 102 167 269 161
Sean Haggerty 1993–96 187 131 132 263 136
John Vigilante 2002–06 254 93 153 246 107
Harold Druken 1996–99 187 123 120 243 60
John Mitchell 2001–05 258 80 150 230 158
Damian Surma 1998–02 241 105 120 225 286

Top active scorers[edit]

Player Years GP G A Pts PIM
Stefan Noesen 2009– 215 100 120 220 201
Garrett Meurs 2009– 265 78 114 192 216
Rickard Rakell 2010– 149 68 81 149 36
Mitchell Heard 2009– 171 68 78 146 216
Tom Wilson 2010– 125 35 56 91 316
Austin Levi 2008– 268 16 70 86 302
Matthew Mistele 2011– 96 37 28 65 69
Ryan Hartman 2012– 56 23 37 60 120
Vincent Trocheck 2013– 28 26 33 59 24
Cody Payne 2011– 116 27 32 59 170

Yearly results[edit]

Regular season[edit]

Legend: OTL = Overtime loss, SL = Shootout loss

Season Games Won Lost Tied OTL SL Points Pct % Goals
1997–98 66 37 22 7 - - 81 0.614 279 223 2nd Western
1998–99 68 51 13 4 - - 106 0.779 313 162 1st West
1999–2000 68 45 18 4 1 - 95 0.691 256 172 1st West
2000–01 68 43 15 5 5 - 96 0.669 253 162 1st West
2001–02 68 39 15 12 2 - 92 0.662 249 166 1st West
2002–03 68 43 14 9 2 - 97 0.699 259 174 1st West
2003–04 68 32 24 9 3 - 76 0.537 220 204 2nd West
2004–05 68 30 29 6 3 - 69 0.507 198 204 2nd West
2005–06 68 35 28 - 1 4 75 0.551 227 224 1st West
2006–07 68 49 14 - 2 3 103 0.757 299 173 1st West
2007–08 68 34 28 - 2 4 74 0.544 228 223 5th West
2008–09 68 37 26 - 5 0 79 0.581 224 218 2nd West
2009–10 68 38 27 - 1 2 79 0.581 245 201 2nd West
2010–11 68 36 26 - 2 4 78 0.574 249 219 3rd West
2011–12 68 47 18 - 2 1 97 0.713 279 205 1st West
2012–13 68 42 17 - 5 4 93 0.684 292 202 1st West
2013–14 68 28 33 - 0 7 63 0.463 187 238 4th West
2014–15 68 23 38 - 5 2 53 0.390 195 255 4th West


Post-season results
Year WCQ WCS WCF OHL Finals Memorial Cup
1997-98 Sarnia 4-1 Belleville 4-2 Guelph 0-4
1998-99 Windsor 4-0 London 3-4
1999-00 Guelph 4-2 Windsor 4-1 Sault Ste. Marie 4-1 Barrie 3-4
2000-01 Sarnia 4-0 Windsor 4-0 Erie 4-1 Ottawa 2-4
2001-02 London 2-4
2002-03 Owen Sound 4-0 London 4-3 Kitchener 3-4
2003-04 Kitchener 4-1 Guelph 0-4
2004-05 Owen Sound 0-4
2005-06 Windsor 4-3 Guelph 2-4
2006-07 Guelph 4-0 Kitchener 4-1 London 4-1 Sudbury 4-2 3rd
2007-08 Kitchener 0-4
2008-09 Sarnia 4-1 Windsor 2-4
2009-10 Sault Ste. Marie 4-1 Windsor 0-4
2010-11 Kitchener 4-3 Owen Sound 0-4
2011-12 Guelph 4-2 Kitchener 3-4
2012-13 Sarnia - 4-0 Owen Sound - 4-2 London - 1-4
2013-14 Guelph 1-4
  • 1997–98 - Defeated Sarnia Sting 4 games to 1 in division quarter-finals.
    Defeated Belleville Bulls 4 games to 2 in quarter-finals.
    Lost to Guelph Storm 4 games to 0 in semi-finals.
  • 1998–99 - Defeated Windsor Spitfires 4 games to 0 in conference quarter-finals.
    Lost to London Knights 4 games to 3 in conference semi-finals.
  • 1999–2000 - Defeated Guelph Storm 4 games to 2 in conference quarter-finals.
    Defeated Windsor Spitfires 4 games to 1 in conference semi-finals.
    Defeated Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 4 game to 1 in conference finals.
    Lost to Barrie Colts 4 games to 3 in finals.
  • 2000–01 - Defeated Sarnia Sting 4 games to 0 in conference quarter-finals.
    Defeated Windsor Spitfires 4 games to 0 in conference semi-finals.
    Defeated Erie Otters 4 game to 1 in conference finals.
    Lost to Ottawa 67's 4 games to 2 in finals.
  • 2001–02 - Lost to London Knights 4 games to 2 in conference quarter-finals.
  • 2002–03 - Defeated Owen Sound Attack 4 games to 0 in conference quarter-finals.
    Defeated London Knights 4 games to 3 in conference semi-finals.
    Lost to Kitchener Rangers 4 games to 3 in conference finals.
  • 2003–04 - Defeated Kitchener Rangers 4 games to 1 in conference quarter-finals.
    Lost to Guelph Storm 4 games to 0 in conference semi-finals.
  • 2004–05 - Lost to Owen Sound Attack 4 games to 0 in conference quarter-finals.
  • 2005–06 - Defeated Windsor Spitfires 4 games to 3 in conference quarter-finals.
    Lost to Guelph Storm 4 games to 2 in conference semi-finals
  • 2006–07 - Defeated Guelph Storm 4 games to 0 in conference quarter-finals.
    Defeated Kitchener Rangers 4 games to 1 in conference semi-finals.
    Defeated London Knights 4 games to 1 in conference finals.
    Defeated Sudbury Wolves 4 games to 2 in finals. OHL CHAMPIONS
    Finished tied for third place in Memorial Cup round-robin.
    Defeated Lewiston Maineiacs in tiebreaker round.
    Lost to Vancouver Giants in semi-finals.
  • 2007–08 - Lost to Kitchener Rangers 4 games to 0 in conference quarter-finals.
  • 2008–09 - Defeated Sarnia Sting 4 games to 1 in conference quarter-finals.
    Lost to Windsor Spitfires 4 games to 2 in conference semi-finals.
  • 2009-10 - Defeated Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 4 games to 1 in conference quarter-finals.
    Lost to Windsor Spitfires 4 games to 0 in conference semi-finals.
  • 2010-11 - Defeated Kitchener Rangers 4 games to 3 in conference quarter-finals.
    Lost to Owen Sound Attack 4 games to 0 in conference semi-finals.
  • 2011-12 - Defeated Guelph Storm 4 games to 2 in conference quarter-finals.
    Lost to Kitchener Rangers 4 games to 3 in conference semi-finals.
  • 2012-13 - Defeated Sarnia Sting 4 games to 0 in conference quarter-finals.
    Defeated Owen Sound Attack 4 games to 2 in conference semi-finals
  • 2013-14 - Lost to Guelph Storm 4 games to 1 in conference quarter-finals.
  • 2014-15 - Out of playoffs.

Uniforms and logos[edit]

Whalers Blue Jersey
Whalers White Reebok EDGE Jersey

In 2009 all Canadian Hockey League teams came out with new Reebok EDGE Jerseys[6]

The Plymouth Whaler logo features an angry hockey stick-wielding whale, blowing a puck and spout of water out its blow hole. The name Whalers is superimposed on the image surround by a circle of green and blue with waves in the background.

The Whalers white Jersey has the whaler logo in the center with 3 even stripes on the sleeves and bottom of the jersey. The stripes are evenly spaced with two navy outer lines and one green inner line.

The Whalers blue Jersey has the whaler logo in the center with a white space and green space going down the sleeves

Anthony Harrison was the original creator for the Plymouth Whalers logo.[citation needed] A three-dimensional model of the logo was displayed in the Harford Whalers Team Store in 1996, this after the model was used in a presentation to the NHL in a third jersey effort. When the pitch failed, the logo was passed to the Plymouth Whalers.


Shooter the Whale

The Plymouth Whalers have a mascot named Shooter.[7] His first game appearance was on December 11, 2003 against the Peterborough Petes.

His Bio states that he can be found throughout the community as well as at all home games spreading Whalers pride or trying to put a hex on the opponent's goaltender. Shooter loves meeting new fans, signing autographs, and getting photos. His favorite meals are wolves from Sudbury, greyhounds from Sault Ste. Marie, and ice dogs from Niagara.


Interior of Compuware Arena

Peter Karmanos arranged to build the Whalers a new home in Plymouth Township, Michigan as soon as the 1995–96 season ended. The Compuware Arena was constructed in 6 months time, ready for the 1996–97 season. The arena is located at 14900 Beck Rd. in Plymouth with a seating capacity of 3,807.

In addition to the NHL-sized rink, there is an Olympic sized rink also in the building. Compuware Arena is home to not only the Whalers, but also the Compuware Ambassadors, a series of major midget teams and lower, according to age.


External links[edit]