HARTFORD — Their annual commiseration will be Sunday afternoon, here in a downtown restaurant, and there is no telling how many will attend. The proud members of the Hartford Whalers Booster Club will gather around a table or two at the Black Bear Saloon on Allyn Street and reminisce over the team they still love, the one that played its final NHL game at the Civic Center on April 13, 1997, and then made tracks south for Raleigh, N.C.
At some point during their annual Whaler Fanniversary, with nearly two decades of Sundays gone by, they’ll once more play a tape of that last game. They’ll chitchat about their beloved Hartford players and conjure up their favorite moments in Whaler history.
They’ll come lugging memories, old ticket stubs, scrapbooks, and autographed sweaters, the collective sporting goods and spoils of their lingering, inextinguishable Whaler love affair.
Related Photos Gone but not forgotten: The Hartford Whalers “I wore a black armband to the last game that day,’’ recalled Joanne Cortesa, current president of the Booster Club, who was a Whalers season ticket-holder throughout the team’s NHL days. “They were leaving . . . and it was like someone had died. It was heartbreaking to see it.’’
As the 2013-14 NHL regular season comes to a close Sunday, there is no sign that Hartford — roughly the halfway point between longstanding NHL outposts Boston and New York — will woo back the NHL. Smart money has Seattle and possibly Las Vegas at the top of the expansion list. Quebec City, where a dazzling new rink is under construction, is considered likeliest to receive a transferred franchise. Quebec for 16 seasons was home to the NHL’s Nordiques, who moved to Denver in the summer of 1995.