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How The South Got Cold

Whalers

Remember that time when Canada used to have Jets? What about having Nordiques (which is a nickname for Northerners)? Do you recall when the Whalers were camped in Hartford? I am talking about a time when the National Hockey League had more teams in Canada and one more in New England. What do most of these teams have in common? Besides the whole “we’re moving to another city” part, none of the listed teams have a Stanley Cup (only Minnesota has any Stanley Cup appearances). So here are the teams in the NHL that fans want back (most information was from this site, which is a great site for information.)

1. The Hartford Whalers were known originally as the New England Whalers for the first few seasons in the World Hockey Association. When the Whalers became members of the National Hockey League, they were stating how they were Connecticut’s only pro hockey team and identified themselves as Hartford in 1979. Rumors started to swirl around the mid-90’s about a franchise move unless the Whalers would get a new stadium to replace the Hartford Civic Center. Needless to say, the new stadium didn’t happen and the team moved to Carolina in 1997 as the Hurricanes.

2. The Winnipeg Jets moved to Phoenix in 1996. The Jets played a few seasons in the WHA before being absorbed along with other teams like Quebec,  Edmonton, and New England. As a NHL franchise, the Jets began play on October 10, 1979. The 1980-81 season for Winnipeg was a tough one for fans, as the Jets only won nine out of eighty games. However, the Jets would get to the playoffs exactly eleven times before packing up for the desert.

3. The Quebec Nordiques last played in 1995 before moving to Colorado as the Avalanche. Like Winnipeg, the Nordiques first played in the NHL on October 10, 1979 after spending some time in the WHA. Like mentioned earlier, the name means “Northerners” as the franchise was the farthest to the North. If you look on YouTube, you will see some brutal hockey fights from Quebec.  As a personal note, I always thought the Quebec logo was very similar to the PBS logo (maybe it’s just me.)

4. The Atlanta Flames are one story of a franchise originally in the South, but moved up to Canada. Only playing eight seasons in the state of Georgia, the Flames went to the playoffs six times. An interesting fact about the name of the team is the fact that it ties into the Civil War, when the Union set fire to Atlanta to wrap up the war. The logo was an “A” with a flame forming the bottom. Calgary was gifted with the franchise when Nelson Skalania purchased the team for $16 million in 1980. Atlanta wouldn’t get another NHL team until the Thrashers arrived in ’99.

5. While the Cleveland Barons lasted only a couple of seasons, they did have a part of history with the next franchise on this list (don’t skip down, read this first!) Named after the AHL franchise, the Barons played in the Richfield Coliseum and used the shape of the state of Ohio as a logo and for the side numbers on the side of the jerseys. What happened to the Barons? Well, they merged with the last team on this list but it would not be a permanent deal. Ohio wouldn’t get another NHL team for awhile until the Columbus Blue Jackets rolled into town in 2000.

6. Lastly, the Minnesota North Stars played in the NHL from 1967 until 1993 before moving to Dallas as the Stars. The franchise was established in 1967 when the NHL opened up six new franchises. Throughout the lifetime of the first franchise in Minnesota, the North Stars played in the Met Center in Bloomington and would reach the Stanley Cup game twice. When Norm Green purchased half of the team away from Gund (who owned the Barons), he wanted to keep the North Stars right where they were, but couldn’t do it when a new stadium was out of the question.

While Minnesota and Atlanta do have NHL teams once again and New England has always had the Boston Bruins, I feel like Winnipeg and Quebec should get another look for a professional hockey team. Look at this YouTube video of a Jets home playoff game in 1992, those are some great hockey fans. Quebec shined in Game One against New York in the 1995 playoffs (ESPN covering NHL). To me, I would think that the nation that hockey was born in shouldn’t have franchises move to parts of the nation where cold weather isn’t common.

On the Atlanta Flames article from Sports E-Cyclopedia, it was mentioned that once Wayne Gretzky was traded to Los Angeles from Edmonton, hockey became popular in the USA. However, how on earth did it become popular in areas where winter-like weather isn’t common, such as Phoenix? Currently, there are six franchises in Canada and and twenty-four in the United States. I am in no way bashing the current franchises and fan-bases, but to the fans of the Jets and the Nordiques and the others, this one’s for you. Will the NHL return? Who knows.

I hope you enjoyed this post. There will be a Part Two to this post coming (but it will be about another sport in Canada), as well as a post about football in the state of Ohio this week.

-Lee

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