All Hail the Whale | NBC Connecticut

All Hail the Whale



    Fans bring souvenirs for former players to autograph at Hartford Whalers Fan Fest on Saturday in East Hartford.

    Rentschler Field in East Hartford was a sea of green and blue Saturday, as thousands turned out for the Hartford Whalers Fan Fest.

    "Back when I was in high school, college, we used to go get a bunch of tickets, come with a bunch of us and just yell and have a great time," said Michael Lee of Vernon.
    Seeing the former Whalers players brought back memories of a time when seeing an NHL hockey team meant a short drive to Connecticut's capital city.
    Bob Lee came back to Connecticut from California and remembered the excitement of game night.

    "It's fantastic. You can't beat going to downtown Hartford on a hockey night. There's this buzz in the air and the restaurants, everyone is going to dinner and thinking wow, we're going to hockey game," Lee said.

    But there hasn't been that buzz since 1997 when the Whalers moved down to North Carolina to become the Hurricanes.

    Many fans, and former Whalers owner Howard Baldwin,  want the NHL back.

    "If we can get a big interest of the Whalers here, maybe in the future we can get the Whalers or a Whalers team here in Hartford," said fan Raymond Berry.

    So that's just what they did -- bringing back Whalers legends to sign autographs and reminisce about the old days of Hartford hockey.

    "It was a great place to play. It was a small community, everybody got along, everybody was involved in the community and everybody liked coming to the games," said former Whaler and now Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville.

    "That has been a really be a special time to reminisce and catch up with ex-teammates and to enjoy all the fans that have come out to remember the fun days of the Hartford Whalers," said former Whalers Captain Kevin Dineen.

    All the former players were amazed at the thousands that came out to show their support.

    "Just seeing the passion, the excitement that the people still have for the Hartford Whalers, it's overwhelming," said Former Whaler Mike Rogers.