Ever since the Hartford Whalers packed up, moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, and became the Carolina Hurricanes, heartsick hockey fans back in Connecticut have been dreaming of the day when the Whalers might return to the ice.
Now it's finally happening -- sort of.
The Hurricanes, who share ownership of the Whalers' brand assets with the NHL, announced Thursday that they will wear green Whalers throwback uniforms for two games against the Bruins during the 2018-19 season -- at home on Dec. 23 and on the road on March 5. (Boston has agreed to wear its road whites at home for the second game.) The games will mark the first on-ice appearances of a Whalers uniform in more than two decades.
Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon hinted back in January that the team might go with Whalers throwbacks this season, so the announcement isn't a complete surprise. Whalers merchandise continues to sell well at retail, thanks largely to the team's old logo -- a whale-tailed "W" with a hidden, almost subliminal "H" -- which was created in 1979 by the Connecticut-based designer Peter Good and remains immensely popular among sports fans.
But what do heartbroken Whalers fans back in Connecticut think of all this? Will they be happy to see Whalers uniforms returning to the ice, or will that just be more salt in the wound?
"Personally, I think it's exciting to see the greatest logo in the history of sports on the ice again," said Dave Schneider, who often wears Whalers jerseys onstage while playing in a Connecticut-based band called the Zambonis. "But I'm probably in the minority. For the old fans, the ones who can't let go -- and there are a lot of them around here -- it's gonna be tough to watch. It'll be bittersweet for them. Or maybe all bitter, no sweet."
Sure enough, John O'Leary, 40, a teacher and passionate Whalers fan who lives just outside of Hartford and says he still "bleeds green," had nothing good to say about the throwbacks. "People here will be incensed by it," he said. "It's a complete money grab. The Hurricanes have disconnected themselves from the Whalers for years, and now their team is struggling, attendance is down, so now they bring back the Whalers gear because it's popular. They could care less about Hartford."
The Whalers went through several iterations of their uniforms during their time in Hartford. The Hurricanes will be reviving the version originally worn from 1985 through 1991. The one Canes-related touch is that the team's warning flag pattern has been added to the inner jersey collar, to match the design of Carolina's other jerseys.
And now that the Hurricanes are bringing back the Whalers, their next step is obvious: Bring back the Cooperalls.
Paul Lukas loves the Whalers' logo as much as everyone else. If you liked this column, you'll probably like his Uni Watch Blog, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook and sign up for his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, check out his Uni Watch merchandise, or just ask him a question? Contact him here.