The Whale was on a five game winning streak and had earned at least a point in six straight games. On Sunday they beat Manchester 3-2 in the last few minutes. With that win they had catapulted themselves into the Eastern Conference playoff race. In their last dozen games they had earned 18 out of 24 points going 8-2-1-1. It was an impressive run by the Whale. They did benefit from playing some weaker teams in the conference but they took advantage of those games, as good teams do. Is the Whale a good team?
Well today they cling on to the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference, earlier in the year there was a brief time that they were dead last. They are only one point ahead of seventh place Wilkes Barre/Scranton and Hershey. They are a few games over .500 with a 25-22-4-2 record.
Last night the Whale played the thirteenth team in the conference the St. Johns Ice Caps. However the point streak and winning streak both came to a screeching halt. The Whale sank after the Ice Caps poured on the offense for a 5-1 road win. The Whale has never beaten the Ice Caps at home. They split the season series this year, after being swept by the Ice Caps last year. Andrew Yogan scored the lone Whale goal. Cam Talbot started in net, but after giving up three goals on eleven shots he was replaced by Jason Missiaen. Missiaen wasn’t able to shut the door on the Ice Caps but he did stop 24 of 26 shots.
It wasn’t a good night for the Whale. The Ice Caps came out fired up and their goalie Mark Dekanich stopped 25 of 26 to seal the deal on the win. Dekanich didn’t budge much at all even stopping Kelsey Tessier who broke in alone after a scrappy play to steal the puck from the Ice Cap’s defense on the Whale blue line.
The only real big highlight of the game was the battle between McIlrath and Cormier who went off on each other like two sticks of dynamite. This was McIlrath and Cormier part two. They faced off with each other in St. John’s on February 9.
The Whale will be off until this Saturday when they play in Wilkes Barre/Scranton, which is a very important matchup. The Penguins are right on the Whale’s tail in the standings, they trail the Whale by one point, 56 to 55.
Will the team be called; Wolf Pack, Rangers or Whale?
An announcement is expected today from MSG, who owns the team, or Global Spectrum, who will be running the XL Center and the Ranger team’s marketing next year. The announcement is to determine the length and terms of a new lease with the team. However what is really on everyone’s mind is what is the team going to be called now?
The Whale was a design brought to the team in 2010 by Howard Baldwin of WSE. The three year contract that was under WSE and the Whale brand is coming up and MSG can name the team what ever they want.
However if they want the most fans for their buck they better stay Whale. This is and always will be a former NHL market. Other former NHL markets are different then traditional AHL markets. You will notice that in Winnipeg they didn’t call their AHL team the Winnipeg Canucks. In Quebec they didn’t call their AHL team the Quebec Canadiens. The reason that didn’t happen is because it would completely turn off the majority of the fan base, no one likes to root for a rival team no matter how insignificant or long ago that rivalry was. In the XL Center, in the NHL days, Ranger fans and Whaler fans were always very far from getting along. That is still the case today even though the Whalers left over 16 years ago.
Out of the 30 teams only six of them have the parent club’s name. The Providence Bruins are the only ones that are close to the parent club. That makes sense because Providence is loaded with Bruin fans. The difference here is Hartford is not loaded with Ranger fans.
Hartford is a fractured market so clearly a unique brand or a brand honoring the cities contribution to hockey would be the correct move here.
Unfortunately the decision is not that cut and dry. Apparently MSG is very interested in using the name Rangers or Wolf Pack. The Wolf Pack was a big part of Hartford hockey. They won a Calder Cup for the city back in 2000. They were supported well by a recently deserted NHL fan base but the attendance for the team dwindled in a nine year free fall on attendance averaging just a few fans over 4,000 per game.
The attendance under the Whale brand has trended upwards with little or no promotion at all since 2010. People tell me that the Whale was marketed with a lot of free tickets. In reality though the numbers for attendance is all we have for comparison. Promotion and “announced” ticket sales happen to every team in every sport for every game and event.
The numbers support the brand. The Connecticut Whale, has brought in over one thousand more fans per game then the Wolf Pack brand. That would mean about an extra 40,000 people in downtown Hartford. How could the state and MSG not want that?
A third brand would be welcome as well, I believe. Hartford is incredibly rich in history and hockey history as well. The solution should be pretty easy but since there has been a huge delay in announcing an extension to keep the team in Hartford their must be issues. One of them would appear to be the brand of the team going forward. They should know how the fans that attend their games feel; all teams should want to grow their fan base, but were going to have to wait a little longer to see if the Rangers want to do that or not.