HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The Hartford Whalers left Connecticut 20 years ago, but their beloved logo will now appear on vehicles gliding along the state's highways.
The Department of Motor Vehicles on Tuesday unveiled a new commemorative license plate that bears the former professional hockey team's green-and-blue insignia. Forty-five dollars from the sale of each plate, which usually costs $60, will benefit a new infusion and dialysis center at the Connecticut Children's Medical Center in Hartford.
"I ask the Whalers fans to get out there and purchase those license plates, because maybe then they will come back," said Democratic Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, giving a glimmer of hope to the handful of die-hard fans who showed up for Tuesday's announcement in their old Whalers garb. One fan wore the "Pucky," the whale mascot costume.
"We'll keep hoping," Wyman said. "It was two decades ago that we lost on the Whalers, but in our hearts we have not. Just like we will not lose in our hearts the caring for our children."
Stafford Springs Rep. Kurt Vail, a Republican who worked to pass legislation last year creating the plate, said the strong, bipartisan support for the license plate concept indicates how much enthusiasm remains in Connecticut for the team, which became the Carolina Hurricanes in 1997. Vail credited the work of the team's still-active booster club, which first proposed the idea about two-and-a-half years ago.
Bob Crawford, who played for the Whalers and several other NHL teams during his professional hockey career, said Hartford stands out as a "special place" among the cities where he played.
"The Whalers are, they're part of our past, our positive past," he said. "They're part of our present and they will be part of our future with this ongoing cause and other things."