November 1971 - The World Hockey Association awards franchise to sports enthusiasts and businessmen Howard Baldwin, John Coburn, Godfrey Wood, and William Barnes.
January 1972 - Jack Kelley, highly successful coach at Boston University, joins the New England franchise as coach and general manager. Newly formed team is named "WHALERS" becasue it contains the letters of the new league, and it carries with it a part of the New England heritage.
April 19, 1972 - Larry Pleau becomes the first player to sign a Whalers contract. Later in the month Brad Selwood, Rick Ley, and Jim Dorey from the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tim Sheehy from the US Olympic Team also join the club.
October 12, 1972 - The Whalers play their first WHA game. Reebounding from a 2-0 deficit, the Whalers defeat the visiting Philadelphia Blazers, 4-3, before 14,332 spectators at the Boston Garden. Tommy Williams scores the very first Whalers goal.
January 11, 1975- Whalers play their first hockey game at the new Hartford Civic Center before a sellout crowd of 10,507.
May 23, 1977 - The Whalers out duel the NHL to sign the entire Howe family, Gordie, Mark, and Marty, to long term contracts.
January 18, 1978 - At 4:30 am, under the weight of snow and ice, the Hartford Civic Center Coliseum roof collapses. The Whalers are forced to relocate to Spingfield while the Civic Center is repaired and enlarged.
June 22, 1979 - Along with Winnipeg, Edmonton, and Quebec, the Whalers join the National Hockey League as they expand to 21 teams for the 1979-1980 season. The WHA officially ceases all operations.
February 6, 1980 - After a two year absence, the Whalers return to the new Hartford Civic Center to defeat the Los Angeles Kings before a capacity crowd of 14,000.
February 27, 1980 - The Whalers aquire hockey great Bobby Hull from the Winnipeg Jets for future considerations.
January 29, 1981 - Mike Rogers and Mark Howe become the first Whalers voted to play in the NHL All-Star Game.
February 4, 1986 - Hartford hosts the 38th NHL All-Star Game before a sellout crowd of 15,126. Whaler rep Sylvain Turgeon collects an assist in the game.
April 29, 1986 - Montreal's Claude Lemieux scores at 5:55 of overtime to give the Canadiens a 2-1 overtime victory over the Whalers in the seventh and deciding game of the Adams Division Championship series.
December 26, 1986 - Doug Jarvis supplants Garry Unger as the NHL's Ironman by playing in his 915th consecutive NHL game.
April 4, 1987 - The Whalers score three goals in less than four mi utes to defeat the New York Rangers and clinch first place in the Adams Division.
February 9, 1988 - Kevin Dineen becomes the first Whaler ever to start in an NHL All-Star Game. He records two assists in the game including one to Mario Lemieux for the winner in overtime.
March 4, 1991 - Ron Francis, Ulf Samuelsson, and Grant Jennings are traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins for John Cullen, Zarley Zalapski, and Jeff Parker. The trade is forever regarded as the worst in Whaler history.
April 1, 1991 - Pat Verbeek becomes the only NHL player to lead his team in both penalty minutes and goals for the seond straight season.
May 2, 1992 - The Whalers extend the Montreal Canadians to the second overtime in game seven of the Adams Division Semi-finals. Russ Courtnall's goal against Frank Pietrangelo at 2:02 am (25:26 of OT) ends the Whalers' first NHL season to extend into May.
June 2, 1992 - The Whalers introduce new uniforms. The club changes to a predominant navy blue colour scheme after 20 seasons in green.
June 28, 1994 - The Whalers are purchase by Peter Karmanos, Thomas Thewes, and Jim Rutherford for $47.5 million. Hartford also hosted the 1994 NHL Entry Draft at which they selected Jeff O'Neill in the first round.
July 27, 1995 - The Whalers acquire Brendan Shanahan from St. Louis for defenseman Chris Pronger.
October 9, 1996 - The Whalers acquire Paul Coffey and Keith Primeau from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for Brian Glynn and disgruntled Brendan Shanahan.
December 15, 1996 - After 20 lacklustre games and just 4 points for the Whalers, Paul Coffey is traded to the Philadelphia Flyers.
April 13, 1997 - After ownership and the State fail to reach an agreement on a new arena, the Whalers play their final game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. After 25 years, hockey comes to an end in Hartford. Kevin Dineen scores the final Whaler goal in a 2-1 victory.
Not a single Hartford sports fan hasn't heard that lively tune at least once, but there are not too many who are familiar with how it became identified with Whalers Hockey...
George Duchame, the co-ordinator of the 1986 All-Star game in Hartford knows all about it. He "discovered" the song, and, quite by accident. "It was one of those lucky things," he recalls. "The song was handed to us - arranged and orchestrated - in 1975-76 and we didn't have to do a thing...
"During the second season the team was in Hartford (1975-76) I began to notice that there was something missing in the atmosphere in the building. We needed something, like a theme song, to add to the excitement when a goal was scored. But coming up with the right song was a different matter," he said...
George's search unknowingly turned in the right direction, however, when he received his copy of the Whalers' highlights LP. The record contained lively strains picked up at a music library to serve as "bridges" from one group of highlights to another...
"I had the record at home for a couple of weeks," Ducharme said, "but never played it. Then, one Sunday, we had company over and one of the guests played the record for fun. When I heard the song I knew immediately it was perfect for us."
The title of the song is "Brass Bonanza," and there is an unusual story about it's author. It seems the fellow who composed it, Jack Say, was an aspiring musician who wrote some music and sold it to a record library. He then moved to Austria looking for more work...
"Needless to say he was surprised to hear how popular one of his songs was in Hartford, and that he wasn't going to receive anything for it!" said Ducharme...
After having completed licensing arrangements to make the song Whalers' property, Ducharme produced it into a record and the Hartford sports public responded tremendously.
The Whalers logo came about during the 1980-81 season through the efforts of Bill Barnes, Whalers Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations, and Peter Good, a successful commercial designer in the area...
"We wanted to use the 'W,' of course," Barnes explained, "which was part of our previous two logos, and develop the Whale's tail, which is the strongest part of the animal. Bringing those two elements together formed a third, the 'H' for Hartford. By juggling these around awhile, that's what we came up with...
"The use of the 'W' was important, beacause of it's link to the past history of the franchise," Barnes said. "The tail stood for out nickname, which is the official animal of the state of Connecticut, and the tail is also the most identifiable part of the whale...
"Many people don't recognize the third element immediately, but it's a very important dimension since it identifies the change from the New England Whalers to Hartford's team, the start of the NHL era of the franchise's history. Fans of the club in its World Hockey Association days will remember the team's previous logos - the 'W' with the harpoon through it, in the club's first year in Boston, and the caricature of the whale, with 'ers' trailing behind it."
But Barnes feels the present logo has the right appeal to all fans and works well to communicate the message of Whalers Hockey. "I feel our logo is one of the most attractive in the league," he said, "and it will be ours for years to come."
My, oh my, isn't this tidy?
The day in 1994 when Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. brought CompuPhony into our lives, he swore Peter Karmanos and Jim Rutherford were "real good at hockey" and had deep pockets.
On the day when CompuPhony told us they were leaving with the state's only major sports franchise on its floppy disk, who could have guessed Weicker had already joined the CompuPhony board of directors months ago?
My, oh my, isn't this tidy?
Hollywood Howard Baldwin, the godfather of Whalers hockey and maker of B movies, is a longtime friend of Weicker. Heck, Weicker's son Gray, a goalie, once tried out for Baldwin's Whalers. Unfortunately, the small matter of being able to stop the puck stood in the way of Gray being another Mike Liut.
Baldwin, meanwhile, already is well down the AHL path on his white horse in another Quixotic quest to save downtown Hartford. The man who brought big-time hockey to Connecticut is now bringing small-time hockey to Hartford. Hey, we live in an era of corporate downsizing.
Gov. John G. Rowland staged one press conference Wednesday.
Karmanos staged another.
For some reason, they needed two funerals to bury the same body. Negotiations to build a $147.5 million arena had fallen apart and the Whalers will leave Hartford. All those who hate lemon socialism will be thrilled that Karmanos agreed to put $20.5 million back into the Connecticut Development Authority coffers to escape this minor league rat trap.
Both spoke with as little passion as the Whalers have played with in the past three months.
All those who love hockey? You're nothing but a bunch of hot-headed, sentimental fools. All those who love downtown Hartford? Don't worry. We've still got the Blizzard and wherever an underaged Oksana drinks.
Rowland's appearance was almost breezy. You would have thought he was talking about installing parking meters on Broad Street. He flashed a bunch of numbers, bragged about what a great deal he had offered and lamented how former owner Richard Gordon had cost the state $60 million and made off like a bandit.
Everybody had a good laugh at Karmanos' outrageous moves.
The Whalers would not agree to any long-term lease.
The Whalers were demanding the entire $45 million - at a minimum - they projected to lose during the three years it would take to build a new arena.
"An impossibility," Rowland said.
The Whalers wanted the facility rent-free.
The Whalers wanted no surcharge or taxes on tickets or suites.
The Whalers wanted all the suites sold by May 1.
The Whalers wanted season tickets to reach 13,000 by May 1.
Ha. Ha. The Golden Greek and his little pony-tail are hilarious.
After Rowland had finished, 40 well-dressed hangers-on stood and cheered. They did everything except carry Lt. Gov. Jodi Rell on their shoulders and chant, "No more hockey!"
Yup. On the saddest day in Hartford sports history, they stood and cheered. It was disgusting.
The fact that Karmanos would later refute some of Rowland's claims didn't matter. The fact that Karmanos said the Whalers offered to absorb the losses next year and sign a 10- year lease with an option for 20 didn't matter.
All that mattered was that Karmanos had his wish. He made NHL history. He turned an entire franchise into a free agent.
Not to be outdone by the Republicans, Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin B. Sullivan issued a statement, praising the governor's efforts. Who could have guessed it would take a sports team to leave town for the Democrats and Republicans to stage a freakin' love-in.
"We have a lot of work to do and I, for one, am ready to roll up my sleeves and get down to the business of building a brighter future for the City of Hartford," Sullivan said. "I don't want a long wake over this."
"Roll up his sleeves?" said my good friend Randy Smith of the Manchester Journal Inquirer. "He ought to roll up the streets."
And they will, Randy, at 6 o'clock every night for eternity.
Nobody had the guts to stand up and say, "I'm sorry. We failed. We let Whalers fans down."
Karmanos, who has no problem boiling himself into a froth when the spirit sways him, was about as wired as a CompuPhony nerd on decaf. The fat cat had swallowed the hockey canary and wasn't telling anybody from under what manhole cover he'd pop out in Columbus, Nashville or St. Paul. With a bunch of expansion cities drooling for a franchise, he'll make out like the last bandit who owned the Whalers.
I couldn't be more honest when I say I don't give a flyin' CompuPhony where the Whalers go.
"We anticipated this all would happen," said Michael Largue, part of the group that had bid on the Whalers against CompuPhony in 1994. "We made an offer to stay for seven years minimum. We were willing to pay more money for the franchise. Silly us.
"I knew Lowell Weicker was a big political wheel, but I didn't know he was a computer expert, too. Maybe if he had spent more time on the sale of the Whalers and less time on his PC, the Whalers wouldn't be moving today."
Karmanos kept repeating that, hey, it's nobody's fault. The market's too small. Not enough fans. Not enough corporations. Not enough TV revenue.
The man who made $250 million on his CompuPhony stock alone last year droned on about the $91 million he sank into the team. The man who said he only wanted a chance to break even was consumed by numbers.
And this was his bottom line: Sorry, Hartford, you're minor league.
"I think if you ask Mr. Karmanos if he was the state would he accept his deal, I'd bet he'd say no," Rowland said.
"I don't believe that government should subsidize pro teams," Karmanos answered.
But, hey, as long as Columbus, Nashville or even Hartford are foolish enough to build Karmanos an arena, who is he to turn it down? Is there anything more disgusting than a supply-side multi-millionaire accepting handouts and being coy about it?
Karmanos kept saying nobody's to blame.
The NHL and Gary Bettman are to be blamed.
Ownership cheated players out of money for decades and did a horrendous job of marketing the sport. And when some of the brotherhood, such as the St. Louis Blues began spending like idiots, the league failed to control its payrolls. Although the NHL grew under Bettman, it never did nail down the big-time national TV contract to save the small markets.
Thanks for showing up in Hartford Wednesday, Mr. Commish. Word is he was so ecstatic about the Whalers folding that the little guy jumped up, hit the underside of his desk and was rushed to the emergency room.
The NHLPA is to be blamed. A cadre of top-level players - Paul Coffey, Brendan Shanahan and some other big-time blowhards - turned Hartford into Siberia. The union roots for big markets. Huzzah for you, Bob Goodenow.
Rowland is to be blamed. He lacked creativity. He didn't get bloody enough. He knew the political fallout around the state wasn't severe enough to battle to the end. So he didn't. We expected so little of him that when he did respond, many overrated his performance.
Why didn't he find alternative methods to help pay for the losses during the three years the arena is being built? The Pequots? The Mohegans? Could he have used bonds to cover the immediate losses, too? What about the corporations?
Deep in his gut, perhaps Rowland felt Karmanos would keep moving the bar. Quicksilver. Answer one problem. Find another.
We must reserve our wrath for CompuPhony.
The NHL didn't like Karmanos when he refused to pay the $50 million expansion fee for Tampa Bay several years ago. He knew exactly what he was doing in 1994. He grabbed what he correctly perceived as a lame-duck franchise, got a sweetheart arrangement from his future employee and bade time.
The NHL let Hartford rot on the vine.
Wonderboy Jim Rutherford and Doogie Howser coach Paul Maurice failed to resuscitate the franchise Gordon had destroyed.
All that was left between Karmanos and a new city was a semi-reluctant Rowland. Karmanos blew Rowland away Tuesday with one flat rejection. It was like Mario Lemieux blowing away a pylon like Gerald Diduck. Easy.
Mayor Mike Peters said he'd probably hit Karmanos on the back of the head if he walked by. "I'd be in jail," Peters said.
Watch out, Mayor Mike. Karmanos said he'd pull his offer of bringing CompuPhony jobs to town. "Depending on whether or not people wanted to beat me up every time they saw me here."
The Whalers died Wednesday. But listening to Rowland and Karmanos you wouldn't have known it.
There were no tears here.
Only real people cry.
- Jeff Jacobs