Tue Oct 20 09:51am EDT
In 1997, the Hartford Whalers relocated to become the Carolina Hurricanes. Since then, the Whale have gained a blissful nostalgia -- from die-hard fans attempting to resurrect the franchise to hockey gear-heads who collect and trade the distinctly colored Whalers fashions.
While T-shirts and other branded merchandise have been readily available from Shop NHL and Mitchell & Ness, Whalers jerseys were only found on auction sites like eBay and typically secondhand. Unlike other defunct franchises like the Quebec Nordiques and the Winnipeg Jets, the NHL's swag partners didn't produce Hartford Whalers sweaters.
Strike up the Brass Bonanza, because that's about to change. IceJerseys.com announced yesterday that it was selling new, CCM-produced 1979 Hartford replica jerseys ($119 US), complete with Pucky The Whale on the shoulder crest. The site told us they hoped other incarnations of the Whalers sweaters would be released in the future.
CCM is a division of Reebok, whose Director of Merchandising for the NHL Keith Leach said:
"In the past Reebok has had huge demand for it in the market place by consumers. Therefore Reebok just got cleared by the League, who manages the rights to this jersey, to offer it as a replica jersey to the public. I am told it should start to show up at retailers between Nov. 2009 and March 2010."
Why the change? For years, the state of Connecticut owned the Whalers name and logo. Quietly, over the summer, the Whalers trademark expired. Perhaps not coincidentally, the NHL began allowing more access to Whalers jerseys and logos, giving its blessing to Reebok and to 2K Sports, which put the Whale in its NHL2K10 game. Cue canned response from League spokesperson:
"The planned introduction of the Hartford Whalers jersey is part of our highly successful NHL Vintage Hockey program, which not only includes the Original Six teams, but also other favorites such as the Winnipeg Jets, Kansas City Scouts, Minnesota North Stars, Colorado Rockies, Quebec Nordiques and the California Golden Seals, whose jersey production is still in development. The goal of the NHL Vintage Hockey program is to respect and celebrate the League's rich history, and new additions to the program are released to a passionate fan base year after year."
Overall, great news for nostalgic puckheads ... although it should be said that Whalers jerseys can be had for about $100 less than the newer models on eBay as you read this.