Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Could the Hartford Whalers actually come back to the NHL?

Perhaps Baldwin has enlisted the help of Hollywood in promoting
the Hartford Whalers name. Actress Megan Fox was spotted wearing
a Whalers t-shirt in Los Angeles on Saturday by totalprosports.com.
A former owner of the National Hockey League’s Hartford Whalers apparently wants to get controlling interest in the American Hockey League’s Hartford Wolf Pack, change the name to the Whalers and work towards bringing the Hartford Whalers back to the NHL.

Howard Baldwin, who bought the Whalers in 1972 and sold his interest in the team in 1988, has been barnstorming the state of Connecticut, along with former Whaler Bob Crawford, trying to revive the name and gain interest in bringing an NHL team back.

However, it appears that the Carolina Hurricanes hold the trademarks and the rights to the name. The newer Whalers jerseys you sometimes see at Hurricanes’ games are produced by Reebok CCM, which has exclusive rights to make NHL jerseys. The rights are still managed by NHL Properties plus, presumably, the Hurricanes - being the trademark holder - receive profits from the sale of the jerseys and other paraphernalia.

It’s ironic that an effort to revitalize the Whalers name would actually profit the man that is blamed for taking the Whalers from Hartford and moving them to North Carolina. Peter Karmanos got controlling interest of the Whalers in 1994 and, after disputes with the city, including failed efforts to build a new arena, he moved the Whalers to North Carolina and changed the name to the Carolina Hurricanes. The franchise has been more successful in Raleigh with the Hurricanes winning the Stanley Cup in 2006.

If Baldwin is able to get the Hartford Wolf Pack franchise (ironic name isn’t it) and does attempt to change the name to the Whalers, will the NHL and the Carolina Hurricanes object? I would think they would have to.

This isn’t a situation such as when the Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore to become the Ravens. In that case, the league kept the Browns name and trademarks in hiatus until a new ownership team could bring a team back to Cleveland. In this case, the Hartford Whalers are the Carolina Hurricanes.

Interestingly, however, it appears that neither the Hurricanes nor the NHL combine the Whalers with the Hurricanes in compiling all-time team stats. Even though Johnny Unitas requested that his records be taken off the “Indianapolis Colts” all-time stats, the Baltimore Colts stats did carry over to Indianapolis.

I feel for the people who lost their beloved Whalers. But the Hartford Whalers, during their 17-year history in the NHL, recorded only three winning seasons and while loyal fans were rabid, attendance couldn’t help but be hurt. Plus, the Hartford Wolf Pack was a poor 18th in attendance in the 30-team AHL last season.

While it seems like a long shot that a different Hartford Whalers team will be admitted into the NHL, the rich and powerful Baldwin, who has run Baldwin Entertainment in Los Angeles for the past 20 years, could put up a good fight. And the drama surrounding the effort could end up in court with the Carolina Hurricanes being a prominent player.

By the way, the Hartford Courant is doing its part in keeping the Hartford Whalers name alive by creating an online home for those loyal to the Whalers. On Wednesday courant.com will launch http://www.courant.com/whalers.


  1. Ron Francis and Kevin Dineen, who played for both the Carolina Hurricanes and the Hartford Whalers, are returning the Hartford this weekend for a golf and dinner fundraiser for the Whalers Arthritis Foundation and for a Whalers fan fest.

  2. The city of Hartford owns the rights to the whalers name/logo...... great reporting

  3. According to Dan Fitzgerald of Connecticut Sports Law, "The prevailing thought appears to be that the City of Hartford or State of Connecticut owned the trademark rights to 'Hartford Whalers' but let the registration expire this summer (2009). There is confusion over whether the rights are now owned by the NHL or the former owner of the Whalers and current owner of the Carolina Hurricanes, Peter Karmanos."