September 20, 2010
Former Whalers owner Howard Baldwin has been aggressively building momentum for hockey in Hartford this year -- from his successful nostalgia-fest for the Whalers faithful to plans for outdoor games at Rentschler Field next February that he vows will feature everyone from high-school teams to a "Mystery, Alaska" alumni game.
But his most aggressive move was reported by the Harford Courant on Monday: According to its sources, Baldwin and Whalers Sports & Entertainment are assuming control of the AHL's Hartford Wolf Pack, the New York Rangers' top affiliate, and will rechristen the team "the Connecticut Whale."
From the Courant and writer Jeff Jacobs, who writes that a formal announcement is expected at a 5 p.m. press event:
"Based on internal discussions and significant feedback from both Whalers fans and Wolf Pack fans, we've chosen a name that touches on our past but also signifies this new era in Hartford hockey," one source close to Baldwin said. "Fans have always referred to the Hartford Whalers as the 'The Whale,' so it's a very familiar name."
The team will open the 2010-11 season as the Wolf Pack; the name change is expected to take place at some point before midseason. The name, a new logo and uniforms are expected to be in place by Feb. 19, when the Whale face the Providence Bruins.
There are three groups likely displeased with this decision:
1. Those who feel a name-change for a team mid-season is patently absurd, which it is.
2. Those who consider themselves fans of the Wolf Pack, who have been around since the 1997-98 season and missed the playoffs for only the first time last year. Ken Gernander's number is retired as a proud member of the Wolf Pack, not the Whale!
3. Finally, those who are offended at the new moniker. Columnist Rick Green believes "Connecticut Whale" sounds like "a dorky insult," while others no doubt bristle at the whole non-plural nickname thing: "Here are your Whalers!" vs. "Here are your Whale."
For the rest of us ... c'mon, it's the return of the Whale, in some semblance. Who in the name of Andrew Cassels could take issue with that?
Illustration by the incredible Rob Ullman, and we sincerely hope this logo is under consideration for the AHL club.