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The Hartford Whalers:
Now and Forever
To 
 
The Whalers: Team History
 

 
 
  
Whaler History:


The Whalers in Beantown-
The Welcome ofA New City, And A New Arena-
The 91 Club-
The Whale Makes Its Return-
Emile Francis- The Era Of The Cat-
The Whale is Migrating South-



Beantown-
    In 1971, the NHL began looking towards expansion, to bring its operations of six teams up to a dozen.  Many Canadien cities sought membershiop to the NHL,  Halifax, Ottawa, Winnepeg, Edmonton, Quebec City, and Calgary.  The NHL, however, said their population bases were much to small to support an NHL franchise, and said that they would in turn look towards the United States for expansion.  The cities they were looking towards were Denver, somewhere in Long Island, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Cleveland, or Kansas City.  With frustration growing in cities like Edmonton and Winnepeg over the placement of teams in the NHL(Bill Hunter, the owner of the Edmonton Oil Kings once remarked, "How does a city like Oakland or St. Louis deserve a professional hockey team, but Edmonton doesn't?")  Bill Hunter would later be able to convince other Canadien cities that their was room in the market for a second professional hockey league.  Other Canadien such as Winnepeg and Calgary would sign on because they believed that they could rival the NHL, and some day gain entry through this new league called the World Hockey Association.  Teams would be granted to ten cities,  Miami, Calgary, Chicago, Dayton OH, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, St. Paul, San Francisco. Later on Miami would be moved to Philadelphia, San Francisco to Quebec City, and Dayton to Houston.  And within another month franchises would be awarded to Ottawa, and to Boston as the New England Whalers who would later become the Hartford Whalers.  The Whalers, though in a city well known for its love of hockey, would struggle to find its own identity amid the Bruins playing to capacity crowds, and the Boston Braves of the AHL playing to large crowds, and also with the Boston University Terriers winning their second NCAA title over Cornell.  With all that going against them, the Whalers would manage to sell 2,000 season tickets, and would play their first ever game on October 12, 1972 against the Philadelphia Blazers.  In their first season, the Whalers enjoyed enourmous success, winning the WHA's AVCO World Trophy after having beaten the Winnepeg Jets for the title.  However the success in Boston wouldn't translate to later success, or to success at the ticket gate, and in 1974, the New England Whalers announced they would move to Hartford to play in the still under construction Hartford Civic Center.  With Hartford's abundace of Fortune 500 companies who welcomed the team and guaranteed they stay, companies such as Travelers, Hartford Fire Insurance, HELCO, and many many others, the team was sure to be financially secure for a long time to come!


The Welcoming-
    At this point it looked as if the New England Whalers had found a comfortable new home in Hartford, the new arena, an untapped region free from cross-town competition, and a strong backing of big-time business leaders.  It looked as if the Whalers had found a permanent home in Hartford.  In the first ever game at the 'mall', the Whalers took a 2-1 lead into the intermission against the San Diego Mariners on a goal by O'Donnel. They would later lose the lead in the second period, but with 2:59 remaining in the second period Carleton would score to give the Whalers a 3-2 lead going into the final intermission.  The lone goal of the third period was scored by Roleauwith 5:51 remaining in the game.  After allowing that goal, many thought that momentum was favoring the Mariners and that at best the way would be able to tie San Diego.  That feeling was further solidified when Abrahamson was called for tripping at the 4:37 mark.  Exactly 1:10 into the penalty, Swain broke from the pack and scored and unassisted, shorthanded goal for the victory in the first ever game at the Hartford Civic Center.  This appeared to be a sign that the Whalers would have success in the future, defying all odds, and succeeding.  As we all know, the fate of the Whalers was not that kind, not by a long shot. 
   At the time, the Whalers new facility was considered state-of-the-art, with a total seating capacity of 10,507 at the time of construction.  The Whalers first season in Hartford would be no different then the teams first two years in Boston, they took home the regular season Eastern Division crown by a tight 18 points.  Attendance was also up.  The team drew 305,959 people over 39 home games, for an average of 7,169 people a game, with total attendance up nearly 70,000 over the previous season.  In the three playoff games the Whalers would draw 30,521 for an average of 10,174, just a shade under a sellout nightly, up from their previous seasons post-season average of 5,516.  Optomism was high, and not without reason, the Whalers seemed to have the winning formula and many thought that would last forever.  The noext season would be an indication it would not, the Whalers would finish a disappointing third in the Eastern Division 2 points out of last place, but only 3 points out of first place.  Though the team would struggle, their attendance would again jump leaps and bounds.  Their average attendance rose from 7,169 per night to 9,308 per night, nearly a sell-out every night.  Nothing could stop the success of this team...except if their building fell apart.  That couldn't happen though.  Or could it?


 
 
 
 
 

 

In addition to
having a lot of
Whalers hist-
ory, I also 
have links to 
other great 
Whaler pages
as well 
Whaler team 
records, so
why don't you
stop and take 
a peek!