It's the team that broke their hearts vs. the team that broke their hearts.
What's a NHL fan in Connecticut to do?
The Bruins-Carolina Hurricanes Stanley Cup Eastern Conference Final has fans of the former Hartford Whalers in a quandary: root for the team that abandoned you 22 years ago or the one that caused so much heartbreak back when "Brass Bonanza" was rockin' the Hartford Civic Center?
The Whalers were born as the New England Whalers when the World Hockey Association was born in 1972, they shared the Boston Garden with the Bruins until moving to Hartford in '74 and joined the NHL in '79 when WHA teams merged with the more established league.
The Bruins had some memorable battles with the Whalers as Adams Division rivals, including playoff losses in 1990 and '91.
Let's do this thing. pic.twitter.com/1cQsQpsv34— NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSBoston) May 7, 2019
To the 139 members of the Whalers Booster Club (yes, it's still around), the rivalry remains alive and, 22 years after being jilted, they're still carrying the torch for The Whale.
“Look at that,” club member Mark Anderson told the Associated Press' Pat Eaton-Robb as he watched at a suburban Hartford sports bar when Patrice Bergeron’s go-ahead goal in the third period put the Bruins up on the Whaler-Canes in Game 1 Thursday. “It’s just like old times. Two b.s. penalties against us lead to two b.s. Bruins goals.”
Anderson and other club members gathered to watch the game and root on the ex-Whalers - or just root against the Bruins.
“I’ve always said that no matter what, I’d never root for the Bruins and never root for the Rangers [who now have their AHL team in Hartford],” Dan Narvesen, 40, of Granby, Conn., told The AP. “So, this would be one of the few times that I will root for Carolina.”
The new owners of the Hurricanes, Tom Dundon, who in January 2018 bought the team from Peter Karmanos, the man who moved them from Hartford in 1997, has embraced their New England roots by having the Canes don the green Whalers uniforms for games against the Bruins this past regular season.
“And, whether it was for a money grab or not, the new owner did bring back the Whalers jerseys for a couple of games this year, so at least they are finally acknowledging the past,” Narvesen said.
Bloomberg reports that Whalers gear remains the league's top seller among defunct franchises, according to Fanatics Inc. The NHL owns the Whalers trademark and wouldn’t disclose sales figures, saying only that Whalers apparel is among the most popular of what it calls "vintage" teams.
Anderson and the rest of the Whale boosters haven't abandoned hope that the NHL, if not the Hurricanes, will one day return to Hartford: “Nothing will stop us from trying,” he told Bloomberg.
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