Brass Bonanza : Bring Back the Whalers ! LbNA # 46710
|Placed Date||Apr 17 2009|
|Found By||oj drinker|
|Last Found||Jun 15 2013|
The Whalers franchise was born in November 1971 when the World Hockey Association awarded a franchise to New England businessmen Howard Baldwin, John Coburn, Godfrey Wood and William E. Barnes, to begin play in Boston. The team began auspiciously, signing former Detroit Red Wing star Tom Webster, hard rock Boston Bruins' defenseman Ted Green (the team's inaugural captain), Toronto Maple Leafs' defensemen Rick Ley, Jim Dorey and Brad Selwood, and former Pittsburgh Penguins' goaltender Al Smith. New England also signed an unusually large number of American players including Massachusetts natives and former US Olympic hockey team members Larry Pleau (who had been a regular with the Montreal Canadiens the previous season), Kevin Ahearn, John Cunniff and Paul Hurley. Two other ex-US Olympians on the Whalers roster (Minnesotans Timothy Sheehy and Tommy Williams) had spent a significant part of their respective careers in Boston with Boston College and the Bruins, respectively. The Whalers would have the WHA's best regular-season record in the 1972–73 WHA season, with Webster leading the team in scoring and rampaging through the playoffs, and behind legendary ex-Boston University coach Jack Kelley, would win the inaugural Avco World Trophy, the WHA championship.
For the first 2½ years of their existence, the Whalers played home games at the Boston Arena, Boston Garden, and The Big E Coliseum in West Springfield. With sagging attendance related to the ebbing of the early 1970s hockey boom in the Boston area, however, the franchise's owners decided to move it to Connecticut, an area that, except for various minor league teams in New Haven, had been largely bereft of pro hockey. The Whalers' ownership group was attracted to the city of Hartford. With many large corporations and an area rich in hockey tradition, Hartford was seen as a natural choice.
On January 11, 1975, the team played its first game in front of a sellout crowd at the Hartford Civic Center Coliseum. With the exception of a period in the late 1970s when the Whalers played at the Springfield Civic Center while the Hartford Civic Center was being renovated (due to the collapse of a portion of its roof after a blizzard), the franchise was located in Hartford until it relocated to North Carolina in 1997.
Though they never again won the league championship, the New England Whalers were a successful team, never missing the playoffs in the WHA's history, and finishing first in its division three times. They had a more stable roster than most WHA teams—Ley, Webster, Selwood, Pleau, and Tommy Earl would all play over 350 games with the club—and scored a major coup when they signed legend Gordie Howe and his sons Mark and Marty from the Houston Aeros (WHA) in 1977.
While the first two full seasons in Hartford were not glittering (the Whalers recorded losing records both years), the final two WHA seasons saw more success. They went to the finals again in 1978, with a veteran team spearheaded by the Howes—50-year-old Gordie led the team in scoring—future NHL stars Gordie Roberts and Mike Rogers, All-Star defenseman Ron Plumb, and forwards John McKenzie, Dave Keon and Mike Antonovich, and possessed of the league's best defense. The next season was not so fine, but while age finally caught up with Gordie Howe, the slack was picked up by Andre Lacroix, the WHA's all time leading scorer, acquired from the folded Aeros.
As it was one of the most stable of the WHA teams, it was one of the four franchises admitted to the National Hockey League when the rival leagues merged in 1979. Following lobbying from the Boston Bruins, one of the conditions of the merger stipulated that the Whalers were to drop "New England" from their name. The Howes, Rogers, Ley, Keon, Smith, Roberts and Lacroix would go on to wear the uniform of the Hartford Whalers. Most of the members of the 1978–79 Whalers were available as only Selwood, George Lyle and Warren Miller were reclaimed by their former NHL teams. Legendary goal scorer Bobby Hull would be acquired late that season in a trade with another former WHA team, the Winnipeg Jets, and play the last games of his career not only as a Whaler, but also as a member of the same team as his childhood idol, Gordie Howe (who also retired following the Whalers' first NHL season).
The NHL days
The original Hartford Whalers logo (1979–1992), designed by Peter Good, a Connecticut-based graphic designer. This logo replaced the harpoon in the WHA logo by combining a green W for Whalers with a blue whale's tail. Some people never notice that the negative space – the white area between the W and the whale's tail – acts as an H for Hartford. This logo was updated in 1992, the most noticeable change being the darkening of the colors and the addition of a silver background. Subtle changes to the shape of the whale's tail were also made, resulting in the logo seen at the top right of this page.
The Whalers were never as successful in the NHL as they had been in the WHA, yet they attracted a passionate fan base over the years. They only recorded three winning seasons in their eighteen years in the NHL, missed the playoffs ten times, and only once won a playoff series, earning the derisive nickname "Forever .500s" along the way. The team developed heated rivalries with the nearby Boston Bruins and New York Rangers — for home games against the Bruins especially, the Civic Center would have as many as a quarter of the fans in the seats from Boston, a two-hour drive away — achieving all-time records of 37–69–12 and 23–26–6 respectively against those clubs.
The Whalers' NHL history was plagued by disastrous trades, as the team repeatedly dealt away stars for several mediocre players in an attempt to gain "depth." For instance, they traded star defenseman Mark Howe and their first NHL scoring leader, Mike Rogers, in separate deals for players and draft picks which never panned out, and also swapped hardrock defenseman Gordie Roberts for the remaining half-season of Mike Fidler's NHL career. While some trades proved beneficial, such as Chris Pronger for Brendan Shanahan in 1995, all too often the players acquired left Hartford as soon as possible.
The team had a brief moment in the sun in the 1985–86 and 1986–87 seasons. The Whalers finished fourth in the Adams Division in the 1985–86 regular season, and eliminated the first-place Quebec Nordiques in three straight games in the first round, winning their sole playoff series. The Whalers then pushed the division finals to seven games, losing the final game 2–1 in overtime to the eventual Stanley Cup champions, the Montreal Canadiens. The following season, the Whalers won their lone division championship, led by centers Ron Francis and Ray Ferraro, emerging hardcore winger Kevin Dineen, superstar goalie Mike Liut, and troubled scorer Sylvain Turgeon. However, they were quickly eliminated in the first round by the Nordiques. While the team would make the playoffs for the next five seasons in a row, they never came close to duplicating their previous success.
The most psychologically damaging moment for the club was the 1991 trade of Francis to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The reaction of the fan base was savage in condemnation, especially after Francis promptly helped the Penguins to two consecutive Stanley Cup titles. Francis was one of the most popular players on the team, and held nearly every significant offensive record in the franchise's NHL history. Coincidentally, Eddie Johnston, the Hartford general manager who had orchestrated the Francis trade, would follow him to Pittsburgh as the Penguins' head coach two years later.
The Whalers went to the playoffs for the final time in 1992 behind Jimmy Roberts' coaching, but lost a dramatic double overtime Game 7 in the Adams Division Semifinal to the Montreal Canadiens, as Russ Courtnall scored on a turn-around shot. Roberts was fired thereafter, and while the Whalers had some stars in their remaining five seasons in Hartford — including forwards Geoff Sanderson, Pat Verbeek, and Andrew Cassels and goalie Sean Burke — they never again made the playoffs.
The Hartford Whalers' official theme song was "Brass Bonanza," a tune composed by an aspiring musician Jack Say. The song is still very popular with Hartford crowds, and continues to occasionally be played at Civic Center events (including University of Connecticut basketball games) and, in recent years, at Fenway Park during Boston Red Sox games and at the TD Banknorth Garden during Boston Bruins games. Continuing the hockey tradition, the song is also played at UConn, Quinnipiac University as well as Northeastern University's and Boston University's men's hockey home games.
(Thank You Donutz for providing parking information as well as concise directions)
From Hartford – I-84 west, exit 33, and then exit 2 to CT 372 - New Britain Avenue – take a right at the light and go .7 miles to parking lot.
From Waterbury – I-84 east, exit 34 toward CT 372/Plainville, turn right on Crooked St., turn right on CT 372 and go .3 miles to parking lot
Rt. 372 – 440 New Britain Avenue, Plainville, CT
Parking seems to be a problem for this stretch of the trail. I parked in the 440 New Britain Avenue parking lot – Alliance Occupational Health. Other parking lots in this area have signs about restricted parking, but this lot does not. A lot of hikers seem to park there. Please be courteous, this is a business lot.
Bring clues for Jacob's 1st Birthday Mini Series planted by Donutz. (great series to get if you don't already have it)
Clues to the box :
Hike Length: about 3.5 miles
Hike Time: about 2 hours round trip depending on your pace and how many times you stop to enjoy the views.
From the parking lot, safely cross the road as it does get busy at times and enter the trailhead just beyond the railroad tracks. The climb at times is moderate and picks up rather quickly. You won’t have to do any hunting or compass reading until you reach “The Pinnacle”, so enjoy the hike and the view. Please be careful if you venture out to the edge of some of the cliffs as they are very steep and drop off rather quickly. You will be staying on the blue trail.
Once you reach “The Pinnacle” go to the spot where “Connecticut’s Rising Star” is visible. Again, please be careful, these cliffs are steep. Support is there for a reason. From this spot follow a bering of 90 degrees until you level off. Take another reading of 180 degrees. The Boulder protects what you seek.
This area seems to be a popular spot for hikers and the like, therefore please use discretion when retrieving the box and stamp in away from the hiding place.
Thanks for seeking out my box and I hope you enjoyed the hike as much as I did. Log your find on AQ or LBNA and let me know what you think.