On This date in 1979 the NHL/WHA merger is ratified. The New England Whalers are accepted into the NHL for $6,000,000.
Here's a great photo of Nick Fotiu battling Minnesota Fighting Saints tough guy Curt Brackenbury in the fight-filled 1975 WHA playoffs. A game earlier, Nicky was sucker punched by Jack Carlson in the "Brawl in the Mall" -- hence the black eyes in the photo.
On this date in 1977, Steve Carlson scores his first-ever Whalers goal in a win over the Cincinnati Stingers. Few people noticed.
A month later, the movie "Slapshot" was released and Steve instantly became one of hockey's most recognizable players.
His brother Jack also tallied in the game.
Source: The Sporting News
viewed at The Paper of Record 1st 2nd 3rd OT Final Cincinnati 2 1 0 0 3 New England 1 2 0 1 4 1st Period Scoring:
Cincinnati Sobchuk 25 Steele 5:23
New England Keon 15 Backstrom T. Abrahamsson 7:41
Cincinnati Stoughton 31 Carroll 14:58
2nd Period Scoring: New England S. Carlson 6 Earl 9:12
New England J. Carlson 5 S. Carlson 9:34
Cincinnati Steele 6 Plumb Sobchuk 17:17
3rd Period Scoring: No scoring
New England Hynes 4 Backstrom Rogers 4:43
Goalies: Cincinnati LaPointe New England C. Abrahamsson Shots: 1st 2nd 3rd OT
Final Cincinnati 12 14 11 2 39 New England 16 10 15 3 44
Sports Illustrated, January 1978:
The architect and the structural engineers had wanted to create something daring and visually spectacular when they designed the Civic Center Coliseum in Hartford, Conn. So they included in their plans "a delicate roof that would appear to float high above thousands of spectators," as one of them wrote in Civil Engineering magazine. Late last week independent engineers were examining the rubble that once was the Coliseum's "delicate roof," a roof that appeared to have floated 85 feet straight down, shattering into a million pieces under the weight of a huge layer of snow and ice.
Providentially, no one was injured. Nearly 5,000 spectators had been in the building six hours earlier to see the University of Connecticut basketball team play Massachusetts, but the Coliseum was empty when the $2 million roof collapsed at 4:19 a.m.
The 1,400-ton lattice-type space frame roof had been composed of 4,455 small steel pieces and lightweight gypsum concrete, supported solely by four concrete posts. Three years ago hydraulic jacks raised the 2 acre lid onto the Coliseum, the centerpiece of a $70 million Civic Center complex designed to revitalize downtown Hartford.
Since the first of the year a series of rain, sleet and snow storms had dumped the equivalent of 4.71 inches of water on the roof. The weight of the ice and snow was approximately 24.54 pounds per square foot, less than the 30 pounds per square foot the roof reportedly had been designed to withstand, according to The Hartford Courant.
The New England Whalers of the World Hockey Association were the Coliseum's prime tenants and they have shifted the rest of their games for this season and next to a 7,449-seat arena in Springfield, Mass., 24 miles away. Whaler crowds had been averaging 9,701 in the 10,507-seat Coliseum, an increase of 12% over last season.
For Howard Baldwin, the managing general partner of the Whalers and president of the WHA, the experience was somewhat similar to one he had in 1968, when he was ticket manager of the Philadelphia Flyers: portions of the Spectrum roof blew off, and the team finished the last month of the season in Quebec City, where it operated a farm team.
Baldwin was philosophical, even confident, that from the shambles in Hartford would come a better and bigger Coliseum. He said he hopes the Whalers will be back in their home in 18 months and that seating will be increased to a minimum of 13,000, possibly to more than 15,000. "We'll lose some more money in Springfield, but we expect a lot of our season-ticket holders to stay with us," Baldwin said. "We have a solid partnership [including several Hartford insurance companies], and there's no question this franchise is one of the best. Everyone has been wonderful about the commitment to rebuilding."
And what effect would the collapse have on a possible WHA merger or consolidation with the National Hockey League? "Absolutely none," Baldwin said. "Last summer when we were talking to the NHL we knew we would have to expand our seating and we were planning to do it. New England will be part of anything that happens between the leagues. Nothing will go together if New England isn't a part of it."
Today Hartford Whaler Nation celebrates the first-ever professional hockey game in Hartford, January 11, 1975. See a full account of this special night along with just-released archival photos of this historic event.
Until this memorable evening there had never been a pro hockey game in Hartford. The city could not have been further off the major league map. But within just five years the Whalers would become the WHA's premier franchise and would join the National Hockey League.
In 1975, the city of Hartford dreamed big dreams -- and those dreams came true.
By Tom Hine, Hartford Courant, January 11, 1975
The many years of waiting have long since disappeared.
It's now only a matter of hours.
The City of Hartford is on the major league sports map, and the New England Whalers have a home of their own.
It culminates at 7:30 tonight when the first WHA hockey puck is dropped at center ice in the two-day-old Hartford Civic Center.
And Hartford...and the Whalers...couldn't be happier.
It's been a long road.
That's exactly where the Whalers have spent most of the last three month. On the road. Even their 13 games in West Springfield were away from home, only a temporary residence for a major league hockey team that awaited ever so patiently for the final touches on a new Civic Center they'll move into tonight.
The San Diego Mariners are listed as the Whalers' first Hartford foes, but most of the fans don't know it. The 10,507 who bought tickets to assure a sellout tonight over ten days ago could care less who the Whalers are playing. They just want to be there when it happens.
Fancy words like icing, blue lines, red lines, creases, offsides...that will all come later. Teams like the Jets, Aeros, Nordiques, Fighting Saints, Roadrunners..that will all come later, too. And names like Abrahamsson, Swain, Fotiu, Ley, Webster, Pleau...they, too, may be unfamiliar to most patrons, but they'll be household words in only a short time.
Hartford wanted major league hockey, and it will have it tonight.
The Whalers, first-season champions in the three-year-old WHA, got off to a quick start toward their third Eastern Division title in a row. But, problems have beset them of late, and they've been losing more than they're winning.
New England has won only two of its last eleven games, just seven of its last 20, but it still leads its division by 14 points. The Whalers' 25 road games have had a lot to do with the recent losses, overlooking perhaps an even more important item...the Whalers' injuries.
Only five of the 21 players on the roster have managed to escape injury since Nov. 29 and 20 separate injuries have forced eleven players to miss at least one game. Many players missed a lot more than that. But, healthy or not, winning or not, the Whalers are here.
Even thought they won't see the Civic Center for the first time until an 11 a.m. practice this morning, the Whalers are glad to be home. It can't help but be an exciting moment when they first skate onto the one-inch glazed surface to meet the Mariners.
The Whalers opened the new Hartford Civic Center in grand fashion as a shorthanded overtime goal by Garry Swain gave New England a 4-3 win over the San Diego Mariners.
Don Blackburn scored the first-ever Whalers goal in Hartford at 11:21 of the first period. Fred O'Donnell and Wayne Carleton also scored added markers as the Whalers led 3-2 after two stanzas.
San Diego's Michel Rouleau tallied with 5:51 left in the third period to set the stage for Swain's opening night heroics.
With Tommy Abrahamsson serving a minor penalty, Swain stole the puck from Kevin Morrison and blasted a slap shot past Mariner goalie Ernie Wakely at 5:47.
"I was on the ice for about a minute and that was the only shot I had left" recalls Swain. " I was really drained."
Today is the birth date of the late Al Smith, who would have been 68 today. Any discussion of the Whalers all-time great goaltenders would have to include the zany, scrappy and talented backstop of the Whalers 1973 WHA championship team.
"Some time around Christmas or New Years, we were in Hartford to play against the Whalers. Before the game, I talked with Whalers general manager Jack Kelley, who was someone who always good to me. He told me that his team had signed Jack Carlson (an inspiration for one of the three Hanson brothers in Slap Shot) and that he's the one guy I should probably avoid fighting.
I actually managed to score a goal in the game -- my only one of the season and the first of three I had during my time with Cincy. Demers soon put me back on the ice. No, I didn't think I'd suddenly become a sniper. I'm sure you know that old saying about crushers, rushers and ushers.
Hartford coach Harry Neale sent out Carlson on my next shift. As soon as the puck dropped, so did our gloves.
Jack and I slugged it out in what might have been the longest fight of my playing career. It wasn't one of those wrestle-and-hold fights, either. We were tagging each other. When it was finally over, referee Billy Friday came over to us and told us it was the best fight he'd ever seen. That meant a lot to me.
I was feeling pretty good about myself as I skated to the penalty box, physically tired but mentally exhilarated after the long fight. Then I heard Jack Carlson calling to me from the Whalers' box. He already wanted to fight again, right on the spot!
I was glad to have five minutes to catch my breath and recharge my batteries. That was more than enough time. As soon as Carlson and I stepped out of the box, we dropped our sticks and gloves and started round two. That one wasn't quite as epic as the first tussle but it was still another pretty active and lengthy fight."
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