"My Experiences With A Secret Society That May Or May Not Exist, & Of Whom I Am In Complete Awe."
Hello, I'm Frank and I'm the new contributor. You'll be hearing from me from time to time until Paul or the rest of the Construx crew find my ramblings to be too mindless. Paul and I were good friends in school and we bonded over hockey, video games, cartoons and mindless chatter. Thanks to the internet, we can still do that with great frequency even though Paul bolted for Western New York a decade ago.
I attend a few sporting events every year, mainly baseball games when the sun is shining and hockey games when the weather is terrible. No matter what level, no matter what city, I always see a wide selection of team logos amongst the crowd. If I remember correctly, I have seen quite a few Minnesota Twins hats at baseball games nowhere near Minnesota and featuring teams other than the Twins. There are a few others, too, such as the customary Yankee and Red Sox apparel. But nothing compares with the odd experiences I've had with a phenomenon I can only refer to as The Hartford Whalers Mafia.
Over the past few years, it seems every hockey game I attend has had one thing in common: there is exactly ONE person in the crowd in Hartford Whalers attire. The reason this is so strange is that my attendance at hockey games has had no real pattern other than a random conversation with my wife that begins "Hey, we should drive to (insert random place within driving distance of Pittsburgh) to see a hockey game this weekend." This phenomena has stretched from the NHL to the AHL to the ECHL and even in the NCAA college ranks.
Though I had some inkling about it before, I first really thought about it in April, 2011 when we made a road trip to see the Wilkes/Barre Scranton Penguins home & home series with their rival Hershey Bears (The Washington Crapitals minor league team). On Friday, there was a guy in the concourse at Wilkes/Barre decked out in Whalers green. I remember thinking "Good for him, keep it alive." The next night, I spotted him across the arena in Hershey in a different Whalers jersey. Maybe that's why it stood out to me. Same guy (I'm pretty sure anyway), different Whalers jersey in 2 different cities at 2 different hockey games with no Whalers association.
Between then and the end of the year, I noticed a singular Whalers fan at a Wheeling Nailers (ECHL) game, 2 Penguins games and even a Robert Morris (NCAA) game. Heck, when I went to Vegas that December, I didn't go to any sporting events but there was a Whalers fan there among all the other unusual stuff you see on the strip. In January, 2012, there was a guy in a really fancy Whalers jersey/sweatshirt at the outdoor college game played between Ohio State and Michigan in Cleveland. I actually talked to that guy for a moment. Depending on your perspective, his reaction could be described as "who is this freaking lunatic?" or "someone is on to us!"
On December 22 of this year I texted Paul when, much to my disappointment, there where no Hartford fans to be seen at that evening's Nailers game. I figured the whole thing was over until December 28 at the Three Rivers Classic where, among the (appropriate for the event) Robert Morris and Penn State jerseys, was a lovely young lady in my section donning a Kevin Dineen jersey. They were back! The next night was the final night of the tournament and wouldn't you know there was a guy in a late-era, blue Whalers jersey?
Who are these people? Are they showing up at hockey games all over the continent? All over the globe? Should we be concerned? Should I have even written this?
Rough estimate of the totals.....2 years, 5 hockey cities, 11 or so hockey games in 4 different leagues, 1 trip to Las Vegas, and at least 11 singular sightings of people supporting a hockey team that hasn't existed since 1997.