Jeff Jacobs: Whalers jerseys have no business in Carolina
The photograph has sat on the bedroom dresser for more than a quarter century. There it is, the on-ice framed memory.
Some young newspaper writer, barely recognizable anymore, is awarding the 1989 Frank Keyes Memorial trophy for Whalers unsung hero to goalie Peter Sidorkiewicz. They called him El Sid, as in the fabled Spaniard El Cid, and there is Sidorkiewicz decked out in the delicious home white jersey with green pants and the iconic logo.
In the 1961 movie, El Cid is strapped dead and upright on his horse and leads his men to heroic victory over the Moors. I thought about the photo and El Sid the other day when new Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon said he wants to explore having his team wear Whalers jerseys in games.
“I think that’s an unbelievably good look,” Dundon said on ESPN 99.9 The Fan in Raleigh. “I love it. I think we should have a store that sells that Whalers merchandise online. I think we should explore playing games in that jersey and selling that gear. It’s part of the legacy.”
No. Non. Nada. Never.
Mr. Dundon, you don’t get to prop that beautiful jersey up like El Cid, dead, iconic, and use it to cash in on another place’s broken dreams. Not without a fight here. You don’t get to prop up the Whale tail like some hero and skate it out to the cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching of “Brass Bonanza.”
Oh, wait, you already played “Brass Bonanza” the other night at a game?
The Whalers logo is part of Hartford’s legacy. It is part of Connecticut’s sports legacy. The white H hiding inside the green W to symbolize Hartford Whalers? The white H hiding inside the green W to recognize the WHA roots that brought the franchise to Connecticut?
That beautiful blue Whale tail?
Sorry, Mr. Dundon. That tail belongs to Hartford. That tale belongs to Connecticut. You bought your red from Pete Karmanos. You bought your black from the traitor. You bought your swirly logo, the one derisively called the Toilet Bowl logo, the one The Hockey News picked as the worst in the NHL in 2014.
Wear it as a badge of honor, Mr. Dundon. Wear it proudly.
Just don’t wear the Whalers jerseys.
The NHL and Hurricanes jointly own the trademark on the Whalers logo. To be honest, even after covering the Whalers for nearly 15 years and the unseemly defection to Carolina, I didn’t know that. I thought the NHL was in control. Karmanos had so much disdain for everything green and Whale, he took every chance to distance himself. Heck, he even unretired some of the retired numbers and put them back on the ice.
Yet now the Hurricanes are looking at periodically playing in Whalers gear? And selling Whalers stuff? Look, Mr. Dundon may be a great guy. Mr. Dundon may be the answer to resell hockey to an area that isn’t buying into a team that hasn’t made the NHL playoffs since 2009. But turning to Hartford for any answers is bad form.
Yes, I am foisting the sins of the father upon the son. After all, Karmanos got into an ugly feud with his own biological sons and ran off his hockey son, Jim Rutherford. So, Mr. Dundon, as rightful heir to Ponytail Pete’s throne, let’s be clear.
You own the Carolina Hurricanes. Karmanos bought the team for $47.5 million in 1994 and you bought 61 percent of a team from him valued at $550 million in 2018. So as a self-made billionaire, you own plenty.
You just don’t own the Hartford Whalers. Never did, never will.
Some romantics in Connecticut undoubtedly will embrace Mr. Dundon’s idea. Any chance to see the old green and white and the greatest logo of them all will send chills up and down their spine. Some can’t get enough of “Brass Bonanza” and Lord knows you can hear the song at so many sporting events. That kind of desperation makes me sad. The memories should be enough.
The Hurricanes got to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2002. The Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup in 2006. Those are great hockey moments Hartford never enjoyed. Karmanos mocked Hartford for throwing a parade in 1986 for a team that won one round in the playoffs. Karmanos lied about attendance figures, trumping up fantastically low figures that outsiders to this day parrot. He made Connecticut the punchline for his jokes. Carolina has its own hockey legacy.
Oh, Mr. Dundon and the NHL can do anything they want. Connecticut can’t stop them. Connecticut’s best response is to have commemorative license plates with money benefiting Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.
In the past, I would have begged for a regular-season game each year at the XL Center against the Rangers or Bruins in exchange for using the jerseys. I see now that is hopeless romanticism. The Hurricanes aren’t playing a real game in Hartford.
And the NHL isn’t coming back to Hartford; not now, not in the foreseeable future. Maybe one day. We can dream.
If the Whalers logo wasn’t so grand, if Whalers stuff didn’t sell better than any non-current NHL team, Mr. Dundon wouldn’t bother with any of this.
So here’s the deal, NHL and Mr. Dundon.
You turn over all the money made on the Whalers logo to Connecticut charities and you can wear their jerseys anywhere, anytime. Until then, stick to your swirly thing.