Saturday, July 20, 2013

Brendan Shanahan's Whalers Legacy

"I'll take Keith Primeau over Shanahan any day."  This was a typical Hartford Whalers' fan's reaction that day on October 9, 1996 when Shanahan's request for a trade was finally granted.

Naturally, that was said in the heat of the moment shortly after Brendan Shanahan essentially shot his way out of Hartford at the very beginning of the 1996-97 season.  I had Hartford Whaler season tickets that year (the last year they were in Hartford) and the vitriol that the fans had for Shanahan was striking. #94 jerseys were burned.  People in and around Hartford stopped naming their children "Brendan" or "Shanahan."  The friend of a friend who swore that he dated Brendan Shanahan didn't come around as much anymore (although I never believed her story that she actually dated Shanahan, she was a little cra-cra).

And this hatred was from a fan base that Peter Karmanos deemed to be too apathetic to support a NHL franchise. 

Now, after a 21 year career that netted him 656 goals, Shanahan has been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2013.  And I'm happy for him. 

He only scored 45 of those 656 goals in a Whalers' uniform, but those 45 goals gave us Whalers fans hope.  Back in 1995, when the rumors were that the Whalers were looking to trade their defenseman stud Chris Pronger for some scoring punch, the Whalers were little moribund.  And that showed in the dwindling attendance and the nonchalant attitude that many of us had.  Chuck's Steak House was not very busy in those days and the Civic Center was a half empty shell of what it used to be.  We needed some excitement.

And when Pronger was traded for arguably the most exciting player in the NHL - certainly the most dynamic goal scorer - we went crazy.  Even though the Whalers' owner wanted to move the team, Shanahan brought excitement back to the franchise.  I got my tickets to the usual 10 games, the fans started returning and Chuck's Steak House was buzzing again.  Even LC, who was my girlfriend at the time, was interested in hockey.  Although the Whalers missed the playoffs that year, we were all excited about what Shanahan was going to do.  We were excited for the future, too.

And shortly after the season ended, Shanahan started to make some noise about leaving.  At this point, I really don't blame him any more.  The team was subject to intense speculation about moving.  There was a desperate call for getting 11,000 season ticket holders, otherwise, the team was moving.  No one was really sure where the team would move, but we thought maybe the hockey hot bed of North Carolina.  There was a lot of uncertainty.

And then, just like that, Shanahan was gone.  Traded to Detroit for Keith Primeau and Paul Coffey and a First Draft Pick in 1997 (who turned out to be Nikos Tselios - I don't know him either) Shanahan was forever gone. 

And now, Shanahan is going to the Hall.  If this were baseball, my question would be whether he was going to be wearing a Hartford Whalers cap.  Nah, probably not.  Yeah, I'd say I'm happy for him.

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