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Extreme Makeover AHL edition: Hartford Wolf Pack to become Connecticut Whale

Posted By Margaret DeJesus On Sep 29 2010 @ 12:06 am In New York Rangers | 8 Comments

The New York Ranger’s AHL affiliate is going for a new look. Or make that, a vintage alternative look.

Howard Baldwin, former owner of the Hartford Whalers, signed a multi-year agreement to take control of business operations of the Hartford Wolf Pack . Baldwin plans to re-brand and rename the team to the Connecticut Whale sometime during this season which will bring back memories of the WHA and NHL team of yesteryear. In 1997, the Whalers franchise moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, becoming the Carolina Hurricanes.

The marketing blitz is aimed at bringing hockey back to the forefront in Connecticut.

According to the AHL 2009-2010 attendance report [1], the Wolf Pack averaged only 4,188 fans per game, ranked 18th in the league in attendance. The XL Center where they play has a hockey game capacity for 15,635 fans. The team failed to make the playoffs last season for the first time.

Baldwin already held a summer Whalers fan festival that drew in crowds and has a winter outdoor game festival modeled off the NHL Winter Classic in the works.

I have two major issues with this announcement of the death of the Wolf Pack and birth of the Whale:

1) Why would you rename a team (launching a new logo and jersey) in the middle of the season? It should have been done either this summer or held off till after the season. It’s hard to market a new identity without alienating current Wolf Pack fans mid season. Imagine you woke up and threw on your Ken Gernander Wolf Pack jersey or Ryan Callahan t-shirt only to find there was no such team anymore. The fans hitting the seats may be thinning out at the XL Center but stripping away their red, silver and blue identification smack in the middle of February seems off and just plain crazy.

2) What’s in a name? Everything. The NBA has Oklahoma City Thunder. Jon Bon Jovi has his arena football team the Philadelphia Soul. The NHL has the Minnesota Wild. Goofy sports names that just don’t work. The Connecticut Whale can be added to the list. Sometimes expecting mothers practice yelling potential baby names out to see how it would sound. “Get over here Timmy” works a whole lot better than “Finish your breakfast Herbert.” I can’t hear a choir of 15,000 belting out “Let’s Go Whale.”

In a  press release [2] on the Wolf Pack site Baldwin explained the process of naming the team, the “Whale” :

“We wanted a name that reflected a fresh start and new look for this new era of Hartford hockey while still commemorating our rich hockey tradition. The Hartford Whalers have always been affectionately referred to as ‘The Whale’, so it’s a very familiar reference for Hartford hockey fans.”

Whale works as a nickname but as the real name…not so much. Whalers had a much nicer ring to it but I guess I could understand the purists who want that reserved for the slim possibility of an NHL reappearance.

I was never crazy about Wolf Pack either (why not Wolves?) but you could at least “Track the Pack.” What are the marketing slogans sprinkled on the website for the Whale going to be like?

Baldwin wants the past to meet the future. Hopefully his vision comes true:

“Now is the time for both groups to come together and do what is best for hockey in Hartford. A Wolf Pack fan is a hockey fan – and a Whaler fan is a hockey fan. It is my fervent hope that everyone becomes a fan of THE WHALE.”

I say Free Willy and bring back the Whalers.

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URLs in this post:

[1] AHL 2009-2010 attendance report: http://theahl.com/stats/schedule.php?view=attendance&season_id=30

[2] press release: http://www.hartfordwolfpack.com/default.asp?wolfpack=59&objId=746

[3] Subscribe to author's RSS feed: http://www.prosportsblogging.com/author/margaret88/feed/

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