Old Whale Wounds may Fester Forever

June 4, 2006 -- Joe Palladino -- Waterbury Republican-American

They are still bitter.

It's been 10 years since the team left. These fans just can't let go.

On the Internet you can still find remnants of a love that won't die. The Carolina Hurricanes begin play in the Stanley Cup final Monday, but that fact brings no joy in the land where the Hartford Whalers once lived, played, lost and left.

"Could you guys watch a team that left here win a cup in Carolina? Would you root for it to happen?"

That question was asked on whalerwatch.com, the official Hartford Whalers booster club fan forum. The Blowhole, another fan page, put up these words of encouragement: "Go 'Canes Go."

That is a solitary opinion among fans of the Whale. Whalerwatch is a bit more venomous.

Here is a sampling:

"No glory and no cup for Team Karmonos (sic)," wrote one.

That is a reference to team owner Peter Karmanos, the man who purchased the team, skinned, boned and gutted the fish, and then moved it to Mayberry.

"If they win the cup we'll get negative press because you know there will be that (word withheld for matters of taste) who will write a column praising Carolina ... and bashing Hartford."

"No way do I want that team to win anything. As long as (Karmanos) is the owner and they are playing in (North Carolina), they shouldn't even win an exhibition game, let alone the Stanley Cup."

"Sorry, but in no way can I root for them to win the Cup. Overall, I am pretty indifferent to the Hurricanes ... But I still get the 'should have been us' pangs from time to time."

So do hockey fans across North America. The National Hockey League and its absurd leadership over the past 30 years has broken millions of hearts with an irresponsible expansion policy. Without TV revenue to make the league solvent, the NHL expanded at a dizzying rate because it needed a few hundred million dollars every other year to stay in business.

It put too many teams in too many places without a business plan to help them through the tough years. The only time the league stepped in to help a struggling franchise was to offer aid when they searched for a new city in which to lose money.

And so loyal fans across the continent watched and wept as their beloved teams packed up and moved away.

Imagine the pain for hockey fans in Quebec as they watched the Colorado Avalanche hoist the Stanley Cup. And what about the poor fans in Minnesota, a hockey hotbed if ever one existed, who had to endure seeing their Dallas Stars became Cup champions. Maybe they never really understood hockey in Georgia during those early days, but when the Calgary Flames won the Stanley Cup there had to be a few tears shed in Atlanta.

One fan, boasting the screen name Mr. Brass Bonanza, said he will never root for the Hurricanes, ever. "LONG LIVE THE WHALE!!!" he typed, the emphasis all his.

Sorry Man of Brass -- and we here in Waterbury do love all things brass -- I hate to break the news to you, but the Whale lives no longer.

And while I'd love to see it happen, I think you can forget all those rumors about a new arena, and a new owner, and a new team in town. Our Whaling days are over in Connecticut.

All we have left are the memories, and the bitterness.

Go Oilers.