Whalers ‘Comeback’ Kick in Teeth
Sunday night saw the Carolina Hurricanes take on the Boston Bruins in “Whalers Night” in Raleigh, North Carolina. The hometown Hurricanes taking to the ice in the colours and jerseys resembling those of the Hartford Whalers. The city 620 miles away that the Canes called home until 1997. The strapline ‘honoring our heritage’.
I love throwback jerseys and the history of the game but this I found to be somewhat of a slap in the face for Whalers fans. Is it not a bit of a look what you could have had if your team hadn’t seen the dollar signs and moved half way across the country.
Teams moving in the NHL is nothing new of course it has happened since the league started. Even what we laughingly call the original six includes teams or at least licenses that moved. The Hamilton Tigers anyone. It’s business I get it but those fans that are left behind it hurts. Just ask anyone from Winnipeg, Quebec City hell why not even Atlanta. A team in another city wearing another city’s logo is just a kick in the teeth.
It is not just a North American thing though. The UK has seen more than it’s share of team movements. The next time the Manchester Storm play the Fife Flyers how about they do it Hull Stingrays and Newcastle Vipers jerseys? Or how about the Nottingham Panthers turn out on Boxing Day in a Sheffield Lancers inspired jersey we would quickly call it ludicrous.
The wider argument of course is what happens to the team records. Do these move as well, get consigned to the history books or stay in the city until they get a team back?
For me it is clear they stay in the city until they get a team back. And so should the colours and logos. Take the Nottingham Panthers for example. Fans don’t see any difference between the Panthers of the 1950’s and the team since 1980 even though the later was only formed when the Sheffield Lancers moved down the M1.
I find it hard to believe that fans sitting in Raleigh on Sunday night were discussing how the Howe years compared to the franchises 2005 cup winning season. Especially given Hartford fans reacted quickly to offer their city to the New York Islanders when news the that they might be homeless broke.
Just because all of a teams players and infrastructure move cities it doesn’t make it the same. The reason is simple. Fans and cities make a team not the history. When a team leaves a city it starts a fresh and that includes its history.