In the current NHL landscape where anything going back as far as (gasp!) 15 years ago seems like and is treated like ancient history, there's one hockey relic that always brings back fond thoughts.
Bow before your legendary icon.
That's right, the Whale.
What folks might not be realizing is that the NHL is very slowly, semi-secretly doing their part to try and win back the city of Hartford and win back the hearts of folks like myself who can hear the strains of "Brass Bonanza" whenever they set foot into a hockey rink.
I just received an NHL Catalog in the mail and was stunned and amazed to see photos of an NHL sweatshirt on sale in there emblazoned with the classing Whalers logo.
This jobber doesn't even realize the greatness he's modeling.
Not only was it that, but it was part of a small collection of other highly-priced NEW Whalers merchandise on sale by the NHL.
This amazed me because the logo is owned by the Connecticut Development Authority and not the NHL. To put the logo on any merchandise you have to get permission from the CDA to make it happen and, let's face it, the NHL doesn't exactly enjoy legal wrangling with anyone. Of course, in this case, there's money to be made for the NHL and Whalers merchandise, after not being available now for the better part of 10+ years would sell like crazy to people like me who look for it on Ebay.
Something is afoot here and the NHL is getting back in touch with the folks in Connecticut and not just for a way to get money out of our wallets. They're also looking into seeing what the city of Hartford has to offer as the home of an NHL franchise once again.
What, you don't believe me? Then explain this:
Mayor (Eddie)Perez, along with Andy Bessette, Chief Administrative Officer of the Travelers Insurance Company (who is leading a task force on private sector support for a new arena) and Oz Griebel, CEO of the MetroHartford Alliance, discussed with Commissioner Bettman the potential for including an NHL franchise in future plans for the development of a new Hartford arena.
“Today’s meeting with Commissioner Bettman was an excellent opportunity to let him know that Hartford remains interested in bringing the NHL back to Connecticut’s Capital City. We had a very good discussion and the Commissioner was generous with his time and thoughts about what was necessary for an NHL franchise to succeed,” Mayor Perez stated.
Incredible, right? After all, the NHL was more than happy to run screaming from Hartford (with Peter Karmanos' help) and head to North Carolina.
Herr Bettman doing something to reach out to other cities, even ones that used to have hockey and didn't do well to sustain themselves. I wonder what the folks in Winnipeg think about this.
What's even more amazing about all of this is that Hartford mayor Eddie Perez fits right in with Bettman and his other business pals and loser owners.
Perez is, allegedly, a crook.
In court papers, prosecutors accuse Perez of hiring city contractor Carlos Costa to renovate his home and not paying for it until after being confronted by investigators.
Charged with receiving a bribe, fabricating physical evidence and conspiracy to fabricate evidence, Perez says he is innocent... Costa and a city employee were also charged with felonies.
So here we've got Herr Bettman showing up playing the part of the Redeemer and Perez trying to cast himself as the Hero of the Day and instead it's Perez being arrested for being a shyster all in an effort to reclaim the greatness and the glory of the Whale.
Amazing. I'm not entirely sure this makes everything even more tragic and disgraceful or one hell of a dire effort. Considering that Bettman is along for the ride, I'll think of this latest series of events as another skid mark on the legacy of the Whalers.
"Moby Dork" featuring Gary Bettman as Captain Ahab and Hartford mayor Eddie Perez as Queequeg.
The extra fun part about all of this is that whether the City of Hartford was able to secure this new arena deal or not, moving an NHL team back to Hartford or giving them (God help us all...) an expansion team might rank out as one of the worst ideas in professional sports.
Hartford is an abysmal city, much like most Northeast cities that aren't named Boston or New York City are. Considering that other cities that I'd compare similarly to Hartford (Providence, Worcester, Albany, Syracuse and Rochester) are all homes to AHL franchises, it's fitting that Hartford is home to one as well and there's a damn good reason for that.
These cities are depressed (or recessed, whatever) and folks that live there or in their suburbs aren't selling out the arenas for any of these AHL franchises so what makes any of these simpletons think that planting an NHL franchise with vastly more expensive tickets is going to change the situation? It won't and Hartford has been through this already once and a new arena isn't changing that.
Look, we all think fondly about the Whalers and everything that they stood for and everything that they ever were but this is a case where keeping the memories alive in our minds and on reverential websites (Like: The Blowhole, Whalers Hockey, Brass Bonanza) are what pay the proper respect to the Whale. Trying to reanimate the corpse of the Whale would only serve to ruin the memories of a much beloved former franchise.