Carolina Hurricanes left hockey fans conflicted with throwback Hartford Whalers night
The Canes successfully revived the Whalers (for a night) and not everyone was thrilled
After a 21-year absence from the NHL, the Hartford Whalers returned to the ice on Sunday night. Or the Carolina Hurricanes took to the ice cosplaying as the Hartford Whalers, at least.
As previously announced at the beginning of this season, the Hurricanes will wear the Whalers' throwback jerseys on two occasions this season, both against the Boston Bruins. The first such occasions came Sunday in Carolina, where they took to ice in the beautiful green uniforms, which were originally worn as road unis by Hartford from 1985-89, then again in 1991-92.
They looked great; no one would ever dare to question the merits of the Whalers logo & uniforms. But the decision to essentially transform back into the Whalers for a few days -- even using their infamous "Brass Bonanza" goal song at PNC Arena -- left many people feeling torn.
Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon, who bought the franchise earlier this year, said that the decision was made in order to "honor our franchise's past and have some fun in the present." But many saw the move as the desecration of a grave and a shameless ploy to drum up some jersey and merchandise sales. A cash grab.
Considering the Whalers were relocated from Hartford to Carolina and rebranded as the Hurricanes in 1997, wearing their jerseys could be interpreted as a slap to the face for Hartford and the team's former fans.
Bruins television play-by-play announcer Jack Edwards took things a step further, finding umbrage in the fact that Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton was able to wear his No. 19 on the Whalers' sweater on Sunday. That No. 19 was retired by the Whalers in honor of John "Pie" McKenzie, but several Hurricanes players have worn the number since the team moved.
Edwards' rant was (predictably) over-the-top and it seemed to be rather personal towards Hamilton, who is a former Bruin, but the root point brings up an interesting discussion: If the Hurricanes are wearing the jerseys to honor the history of the Whalers, shouldn't they also be honoring their history of retired numbers too?
Putting aside the fact that McKenzie never actually played for the Whalers at the NHL level (he played for them during their WHA days) and that his number retirement was largely a PR stunt to win over fans in the Boston area, there's a case to be made that when a number is retired, it should never be worn for that team again -- even when a different team is pretending to be that team.
Of course, the league doesn't even allow players to switch uniform numbers mid-season, so this is all kind of a wash. But should they let teams issue alternate numbers for alternate "throwback" uniforms from a different chapter? Some would argue yes!
In any case, it was a successful night in Carolina. The
Hurricanes Whalers beat the Bruins 5-3 in front of a much bigger home crowd than they're used to.
The Whalers will be revived once again on when the Hurricanes visit the Bruins in Boston on March 5, 2019.
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